Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 May 2022
Cooper’s Cave has been known as a hominin-bearing locality since 1938, when J.C. Middleton Shaw discovered the first hominin tooth there while exploring for fossils on the farm of a Mr. Cooper (Shaw, 1939, 1940). The site was described being about midway between Sterkfontein and Kromdraai, and had been extensively mined for lime, resulting in large dumps of breccia. Shaw’s senior assistant, Dr. Julius Staz, was searching through breccia dumps outside of what is today referred to as Cooper’s B using hammers and chisels to break up the rock when he discovered an upper third molar of some type of hominin. The obvious comparisons at the time were with Australopithecusafricanus and Paranthropusrobustus, although Shaw (1939) felt his tooth was more human-like than either of these taxa. In a later, more detailed discussion of the tooth, Shaw (1940) concluded that it did not belong to either australopith taxon, but was otherwise unwilling to allocate it taxonomically. Broom (1946) and Robinson (1956) later examined Cooper’s tooth, and concluded that it was probably an Australopithecus africanus upper left third molar. Unfortunately, the original tooth has been lost, leaving only a cast of the specimen behind. Berger et al. (1995) re-examined this cast, and agreed with Broom’s and Robinson’s conclusion that the tooth was likely Australopithecus cf. africanus. However, given the poor quality of the available cast, the taxonomic affinity of the specimen might be best considered unconfirmed.