Research Articles

Canteen Kopje: A new look at an old skull

Patricia Smith, Robert Nshimirimana, Frikkie de Beer, David Morris, Leon Jacobson, Michael Chazan, Liora K. Horwitz
South African Journal of Science | Vol 108, No 1/2 | a738 | DOI: | © 2012 Patricia Smith, Robert Nshimirimana, Frikkie de Beer, David Morris, Leon Jacobson, Michael Chazan, Liora K. Horwitz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 May 2011 | Published: 16 January 2012

About the author(s)

Patricia Smith, The Hebrew University, Israel
Robert Nshimirimana, Necsa, South Africa
Frikkie de Beer, Necs, South Africa
David Morris, McGregor Museum, South Africa
Leon Jacobson, McGregor Museum, South Africa
Michael Chazan, University of Toronto, South Africa
Liora K. Horwitz, The Hebrew University, Israel


The Canteen Kopje (CK) skull was found by a diamond digger working the Vaal River gravels in 1929. It was hailed by Robert Broom as an exceptionally robust prehistoric individual that was ancestral to modern South African populations. Further exploration of the Vaal Gravels has confirmed the antiquity of the purported find locality, but the heavily restored CK cranium offers limited possibilities for morphometric re-examination or direct dating with which to test Broom’s assertion. We used X-ray tomography to create a computerised 3D image that would provide optimal visualisation of the morphometry of the bony surfaces. The results showed that the CK cranium falls within the range of variation of Holocene Khoesan and lacks archaic features. We propose that it was probably a Late Stone Age intrusion into the Vaal Gravels or the overlying Hutton Sands.


Canteen Kopje; Boskop; Robert Broom; X-ray tomography; Vaal Gravels


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