Boskop Man

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The Boskop Man was an anatomically modern human fossil discovered in the early 20th century in Southern Africa. Initially thought to be a unique type of hominid, it has been dated to between 30,000 and 10,000 BP.

The term "Boskop Man" is no longer used by anthropologists,[1] and the supposedly unusual characteristics of this type are considered to be a misinterpretation.[1][2] Boskop Man was not a species, but a variation of anatomically modern humans;[1] there are well-studied skulls from Boskop, South Africa, as well as from Skuhl, Qazeh, Fish Hoek, Border Cave, Brno, Tuinplaas, and other locations,[3] which are near the high end of human skull sizes.


Most theories regarding the Boskop type were based on the first labelled Boskop cranium, which was found in 1913 by two Afrikaner farmers. They offered it to Frederick William FitzSimons for examination and further research. Many similar skulls were subsequently discovered by paleontologists such as Robert Broom, William Pycraft and Raymond Dart.

The original skull was incomplete consisting of frontal and parietal bones, with a partial occiput, one temporal and a fragment of mandible. John Hawks notes that "The skull is a large one, with an estimated endocranial volume of 1800 ml. But it is hardly complete, and arguments about its overall size -- exacerbated by its thickness, which confuses estimates based on regression from external measurements -- have ranged from 1700 to 2000 ml. It is large, but well within the range of sizes found in recent males."[1]


In April 2008, neuroscientists Gary Lynch and Richard Granger published a book on human intelligence titled Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence, in which Boskop fossils play a prominent role. The authors conclude that the head of a Boskop would have been some 30 percent larger than that of modern humans, giving them a large forebrain, which in turn may indicate a relatively high IQ.

A paper read to the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences in 1956 and later published in the journal Man observed that:

" isolated cranial fragment found 40 years ago near the surface in a dubious geological horizon, unassociated with implements and fauna, ... there has been developed conjecture after conjecture, speculation on speculation ... the features exhibited by the Boskop skull and those which have been termed 'Boskopoid' are not specific to any 'new' single, African racial group, and in Africa they may be found in varying degrees in the Bushmen, Hottentots or Bush-Hottentot admixtures."[4]

Discover magazine gave Lynch and Granger's book a "fairly positive review"[2] and reprinted an excerpt. John Hawks says "The portrayal of "Boskops" in the Discover excerpt is so out of line with anthropology of the last forty years, that I am amazed the magazine printed it. I am unaware of any credible biological anthropologist or archaeologist who would confirm their description of the 'Boskopoids,' except as an obsolete category from the history of anthropology."[2] He does note that the Web editor at Discover replied that 'the excerpt was intended to run identified as a "controversial idea, but that context didn't come across as intended."', and that "[t]he web page has been changed to make that context clear".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d The "amazing" Boskops
  2. ^ a b c d Return of the "amazing" Boskops
  3. ^ Schwartz, Jeffrey H.; Tattersall, Ian; Holloway, Ralph L.; Broadfield, Douglas C.; Yuan, Michael S. (2003). The Human Fossil Record. ISBN 978-0-471-67864-9. 
  4. ^ Singer R. 1958. The Boskop 'Race' Problem. Man. 58:173-178. JSTOR 2795854

Further reading[edit]

  • Broom, R (1918). "The Evidence Afforded by the Boskop Skull of a New Species of Primitive Man (Homo capensis)". Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History. 23: 65–79. 
  • Dart, R (1923). "Boskop remains from the south-east African coast". Nature. 112 (2817): 623–625. doi:10.1038/112623a0. 
  • Dart, R (1940). "Recent discoveries bearing on human history in southern Africa". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 70 (1): 13–27. doi:10.2307/2844198. JSTOR 2844198. 
  • Eiseley L. (1958) The Immense Journey. London: V.Gollancz.
  • FitzSimons, FW (1915). "Palaeolithic man in South Africa". Nature. 95 (2388): 615–616. doi:10.1038/095615c0. 
  • Galloway, A (1937). "The Characteristics of the Skull of the Boskop Physical Type". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 23: 31–47. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330230105. 
  • Haughton S, Thomson RB, Peringuey L (1917). "Preliminary note on the ancient human skull remains from the Transvaal". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa. 6: 1–14. doi:10.1080/00359191709520168. 
  • Lynch G, Granger R (2008). Big Brain. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Pycraft, W (1925). "On the Calvaria Found at Boskop, Transvaal, in 1913, and Its Relationship to Cromagnard and Negroid Skulls". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 55: 179–198. doi:10.2307/2843700. JSTOR 2843700. 
  • Schwartz J, Tattersall I (2003). The Human Fossil Record, Vols 1-4. Wiley.
  • Tobias, P (1985). "History of Physical Anthropology in Southern Africa". Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. 28: 1–52. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330280503. 
  • Lyall Watson (1986). Dreams of Dragons/Earthworks

External links[edit]