Two years later, he had good reason to be pleased with his move, when he received two fossilized skulls unearthed in a mine at Taung. “I knew at a glance that what lay in my hands was no ordinary anthropoidal brain. The skull cavity was three times larger than that of a baboon and considerably bigger than that of an adult chimpanzee, [but] it was not big enough for primitive man.” In his report, submitted to Nature, Dart claimed that the skull was “humanoid” rather than ape-like, and that this early human, named Austalopithecus africanus, “had walked upright, with its hands free for the manipulation of tools and weapons . . . providing clear evidence that Africa was the cradle of man.”
Dart’s claim met a chilly reception among his fellow scientists. He continued his investigations at the Sterkfontein Caves where he unearthed similar skulls, giving credence to his claim that he had discovered the “missing link”. “We know that these erect biped creatures with short snouts and small brains roamed South Africa…Whether you call them apes or man is a matter of definition. Some of these creatures were small. But some almost gigantic.”3
Appointed dean (1925-1943), Dart’s discoveries brought fame to himself and to the young medical school in Johannesburg.