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Raymond Arthur Dart (February 4 1893November 22 1988) was an Australian anatomist and anthropologist. The son of a farmer and tradesman, he was married twice and had two children. He is best known for his discovery in 1924 of a fossil (first ever found) of Australopithecus africanus (extinct hominid closely related to humans) at Taungmarker in Northwestern South Africa.

Early life

He was born in Brisbane, Queenslandmarker, Australia and studied at Ipswich Grammar Schoolmarker, the University of Queenslandmarker, University of Sydney and University College, Londonmarker, before taking a position as head of the newly established department of anatomy at the University of Witwatersrandmarker in Johannesburgmarker, South Africa in 1922.

The discovery

In 1924, a limestone quarry owner at Taungmarker shipped Dart a box of fossiliferous rock. Digging around in it, Dart found an endocranial cast, and then its matching fossil skullpiece. Dart examined this ”Taung Child” fossil, as it came to be known, and pronounced it to be a new species, Australopithecus africanus(the name introduced by him). Dart postulated his new find to be a missing link between apes and humans because of its small brain size, but relatively human-like dentition and a probable upright posture.

Dart's discovery and Dart himself were initially heavily criticized by the eminent anthropologists of the day, most notably Sir Arthur Keith who claimed the Taung Child to be nothing other than a juvenile gorilla. Because the specimen was indeed a juvenile, there was a lot of room for interpretation, and because African origins for mankind and the development of bipedalism before a human-like brain were both inconsistent with the prevailing evolutionary notions of the time, Dart and his Taung Child became the butt of many attacks.

Vindication and disagreement

Dart's closest ally was Robert Broom whose discoveries of further Australopithecines (as well as Wilfrid Le Gros Clark's support) eventually vindicated Dart. So much so that in 1947, Sir Arthur Keith said "...Dart was right, and I was wrong."

Not all of Dart's ideas are accepted today. His assertion that gazelle long-bones found in association with Australopithecus africanus were used as tools is unproven and largely dismissed. Dart also originated the killer ape theory. Although some other anthropologists, notably Robert Ardrey, defended and further developed the theory, it is still widely questioned.

His legacy

The Institute for the Study of Man in Africa was established in 1956 at Witwatersrand in his honor.

Dart continued in his position as director of the School of Anatomy at University of Witwatersrandmarker, Johannesburgmarker, until 1958. There he worked with Phillip Tobias, who continues his work in the study of the Cradle of Humankindmarker and other paleoanthropological sites. In 1959, an autobiographical account of Dart's discoveries, Adventures with the Missing Link, was published (with Dennis Craig as co-author). In the book he acknowledges the important role of his first female Science student, Josephine Salmons (married Jackson), who first brought him a baboon skull fossil, found at the limestone deposit at Taung (she obtained the skull from E.G. Izod, friend of her family and director of the Northern Lime Company — proprietor of a quarry in Taung — who kept the skull as a decoration on a fireplace at his home). She later became wife of Prof. Cecil Jackson, Professor of Anatomy at Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, University of Pretoria.

At the age of 73, Dart began dividing his time between South Africa and The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP), an organization founded by Glenn Doman. Dart spent much of the next twenty years working with the IAHP, an organization that treats brain injured children.


  • Dart R.A. (1925): Australopithecus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa. Nature, Vol.115, No.2884 (1925) 195-9 (the original paper communicating the Taung finding, in PDF format).
  • Dart, R.A. (1953): "The Predatory Transition from Ape to Man." International Anthropological and Linguistic Review, 1, pp. 201-217.
  • Dart, Raymond A. and Craig, Dennis (1959): Adventures with the Missing Link. New York: Harper & Brothers (autobiography).
  • Fagan, Brian. The Passion of Raymond Dart. Archaeology v. 42 (May-June 1989): p. 18.
  • Johanson, Donald & Maitland Edey. Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990 ISBN 0-671-25036-1
  • Alexander Murray, ed. (1996): Skill and Poise: Articles on skill, poise and the F. M. Alexander Technique. Collection of Raymond Dart's papers. Hardcover, 192+xiv pages, b/w illustrations, 234 x 156 mm, index, UK, STAT Books.


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