The Japan Times, December 10, 1998
S. Africa researchers claim ape-man skeleton discovery
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) South African researchers said Wednesday they had discovered the almost complete skeleton of an ape-man estimated to be 3.6 million years old which could provide long sought-after clues to human evolution.
The 1.22-meter-tall fossil was discovered at Sterkfontein on the outskirts of Johannesburg which was also the site of the discovery of South Africa's first hominid or apeman skull in 1924.
"Just one bone would be exciting but this is apparently the whole skeleton - the secret to knowing how the creature functioned. This eliminates any speculation," said Professor Phillip Tobias, who led the team of researchers from South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand.
He told a news conference the discovery would aid the search for the missing link in man's evolution from ape to human.
"It is the most important find out of South Africa since the Taung skull was found in 1924, (and) this probably exceeds that in importance," he said.
Past finds of ape-man fossils, including the oldest hominid bones, found in East Africa, have only been partial skulls or skeletons.
Ron Clarke, director of excavations at Sterkfontein said the complete significance of the fossil would emerge after the ape-man had been unearthed from a 15-meter-deep limestone shaft.
"But what we do already know is that it will reveal a very great deal about the anatomy and evolution of an early ape-man."
He said preliminary evidence showed that the apeman not only walked upright, but was also a tree climber.