The skull of a close human cousin was unearthed at the Drimolen archaeological site at the Cradle of Humankind just north of Johannesburg in 2018 and studied by scientists and researchers at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.
According to reports from the BBC, archaeologists have been working for two-years to put the pieces together and are only now ready to release their findings.
The skull belonged to a “cousin” species of human (not in a direct line to modern humans) named Paranthropus robustus. Robustus was just one of three identified species of early humans found at the site including Homo erectus and Homo habilis who coexisted and competed for food. In comparison to Erectus Robustus had big teeth and strong jaws implying they ate mostly tubers and other plants that they could rip apart with their teeth and chew sufficiently. Robustus died out before Erectus which survived for at least another 100-million years.
Doctor Angeline Leece of La Trobe University said, “”Through time, Paranthropus robustus likely evolved to generate and withstand higher forces produced during biting and chewing food that was hard or mechanically challenging to process with their jaws and teeth.” Other scientists explained that it was possible a wetter environment caused by climate change may have reduced the food available to Robustus.