|Images of Africa|
|by John Walker|
In a locked vault (the "Broom Room") in the basement of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria is the skull of "Mrs. Ples", the first adult specimen of Australopithecus africanus discovered. It was found on April 18, 1947 by Dr. Robert Broom at the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg. The name "Mrs. Ples" comes from the original name given to the species, Plesianthropus--almost human. The skull is approximately 2.5 million years old. Australopithecus africanus walked upright and had a brain approximately the size of a modern chimpanzee's. This skull remains the most complete known cranium of the species. The public exhibit in the museum is a cast replica of the fossil shown here.