’Mother Africa and Mrs Ples’ exhibition at the Transvaal Museum
The exhibition ’Mother Africa and Mrs Ples’, which opened on 8 November with the support of the French Embassy, runs until 31 January 2008 at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the excavation of the famous Mrs Ples fossilised skull, a life-size and realistic bust based on the skull was reconstructed with financial support from the French Embassy to the Transvaal Museum and the Northern Flagship Institute, as well as technical and scientific expertise provided by French scientists.
It took artist Elisabeth Daynès, who specialises in the reconstruction of hominids, four months to complete the reconstruction of the most complete skull of an Australopethicus africanus individual ever found, dating back to 2.15 million years. Prof José Braga of Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse collaborated with Dr Francis Thackeray, director of the Transvaal Museum, in employing CT scanning technology on Mrs Ples and other Sterkfontein fossils.
Mrs Ples - who might have been an adolescent male - is a distant relative of all humankind. Australopithecus africanus became extinct between 2.1 and 2.2 million years ago, and Mrs Ples is the last recorded occurrence of the
At the opening of the exhibition Prof Yves Coppens, honorary patron of the exhibition and co-discoverer of Lucy, a three million year-old Australopithecus afarensis fossil discovered in 1974, said: "Thanks to the Taung
Child, the first fossil specimen to represent Australopithecus, and Mrs Ples, we know that pre-humanity has been African and only African. Humanity has a uniquely African origin."
Dr Thackeray said: "The Transvaal Museum and the Northern Flagship Institute are exceptionally grateful to the French Embassy for its support of this exhibition, research and excavations."
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- Mrs Ples’ bust, meticulously reconstructed, with the fossilised skull excavated in 1947 at Sterkfontein, today known as the Cradle of Humankind Photo: Dominique Gommery
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- Prof Philip Tobias, the South African palaeoanthropologist, explaining the skull of Mrs Ples to Dr Samuel Elmaleh, cultural and scientific attaché at the French Embassy (centre) and the French Ambassador, Mr Denis Pietton Photo: Conrad Schultz
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- Prof Philip Tobias and Prof Yves Coppens, world-renowned palaeoanthropologists Photo: Conrad Schultz