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Taung is a small town situated in the North West Province of South Africa. The name means place of the lion and was named after Tau, the chief of the Tswana speaking Legoya or BaTaung tribe. Tau is the Tswana word for lion.

Taung is located in North West (South African province)
 Taung shown within North West
Taung is located in South Africa
Taung (South Africa)
Taung is located in Africa
Taung (Africa)
Coordinates: 27°32′0″S 24°47′8″E / 27.53333°S 24.78556°E / -27.53333; 24.78556Coordinates: 27°32′0″S 24°47′8″E / 27.53333°S 24.78556°E / -27.53333; 24.78556
Country South Africa
Province North West
District Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati
Municipality Greater Taung
 • Total 20.75 km2 (8.01 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 18,289
 • Density 880/km2 (2,300/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[1]
 • Black African 98.8%
 • Coloured 0.4%
 • Indian/Asian 0.5%
 • White 0.1%
 • Other 0.2%
First languages (2011)[1]
 • Tswana 89.6%
 • Xhosa 2.8%
 • English 1.5%
 • Sotho 1.1%
 • Other 5.0%
Time zone SAST (UTC+2)
Postal code (street) 8584
PO box 8584
Area code 053
The Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa
Taung Fossil is located in South Africa
Taung Fossil
Taung Fossil
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Location Greater Taung Local Municipality, South Africa Edit this at Wikidata
Coordinates 27°31′57″S 24°47′08″E / 27.5325°S 24.7856°E / -27.5325; 24.7856
Criteria Cultural: iii, vi
Reference 915
Inscription 1999 (23rd Session)
Extensions 2005
Taung is located in South Africa
Location of Taung
The Taung Child skull as seen when it was exhibited at the Maropeng visitor's centre at the Cradle of Humankind in early 2007.


History of researchEdit

In 1924, a skull (later named the Taung Child) was discovered by a quarry-worker in the nearby Buxton-limestone quarry. It was described by Raymond Dart in 1925 as the type specimen of Australopithecus africanus after he received a shipment of mostly fossil baboons, but also containing the skull and face of the child. Surprisingly, it would be many years before Dart would visit Taung to determine the exact location of the find. By that time, lime-mining had destroyed much of the area. Later in-situ excavations were conducted under the direction of Phillip Tobias and Jeff McKee of the University of the Witwatersrand, who worked at the site from approximately 1989 until 1993. Although they failed to find additional hominid specimens, they did recover many important fossil baboons and increased the understanding of the Taung geology and taphonomy significantly.


The Taung Child Skull with arrows pointing to Eagle caused damage

The Taung Child was at first proposed to have been killed by other hominids as part of Raymond Dart's Osteo-Dento-Keratic Culture hypothesis. However, later work by C.K. "Bob" Brain demonstrated that the child was probably killed by some sort of mammalian carnivore such as a leopard. Recently, however, studies of the associated baboons by Ron Clarke and Lee Berger, and identification of specific marks on the Taung Child skull have demonstrated that the Taung Child may have been killed and eaten by a large bird of prey.


Unlike the dolomitic caves near Johannesburg, South Africa and the site of Makapansgat, the Taung fossil sites are found in caves formed in a gigantic tufa flow coming off the dolomitic bedrock of the Kalahari escarpment.

About the Taung ChildEdit

The Taung Child is among the most important early human fossils ever discovered. It was the first hominid to be discovered in Africa, a species later named Australopithecus africanus, supporting Charles Darwin's concepts that the closest living relatives of humans are the African apes. It furthermore demonstrated significant differences between reality and the fake skull of a proposed human ancestor from England known as the Piltdown Man or Eoanthropus. The little skull is hypothesized to be from an approximately three to three and a half year old child. The cast of the brain is preserved by the filling of the skull with limestone breccia. The skull is housed at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Main Place Taung". Census 2011. 
  • P.V. Tobias, Dart Taung and the Missing Link (Inst. for the Study of Man in Africa, 1984)
  • L.R. Berger and B. Hilton-Barber, In the Footsteps of Eve (National Geographic Press, 2001)
  • L.R. Berger and B. Hilton-Barber, Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind (Struik, 2001)
  • L.R. Berger Am. J.Phys. Anth. 131:166-168 (2006)