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Shining a light on the Unsung Heroes of SA’s natural history

Plio-Pleistocene Palaeontology

Saul Sithole was an assistant to Robert Broom, and worked at the Transvaal Museum for 60 years, both as an excavator and as a preparator. He assisted Robert Broom on 18 April 1947 when Mrs Ples was discovered at Sterkfontein. Sithole was a dedicated member of staff of the museum, who also assisted Austin Roberts (ornithologist and mammalogist). Sithole was also an assistant on the famous ‘Vernay-Lang’ expedition into the Kalahari in the 1930s, when birds and mammals were collected.

‘Jack’ was a name also given to the late George Moenda who was based at Swartkrans. He was a long-term assistant to Bob Brain at Swartkrans, assisting with excavations. He also helped Francis Thackeray with excavations at Plovers Lake (1990-1992) and later for a few years at Kromdraai. George worked tirelessly with Absalom Lebelo and Jack Sepeng.
     Lawrence Radebe was unemployed when Francis Thackeray met him at Kromdraai in about 1994. Radebe was interested in their excavations, watched what the team was doing, and offered to help. He was of great assistance, and a quick learner. Francis Thackeray was initially able to employ him as a casual labourer, but eventually he became a full-time member of staff in the Palaeontology Department at the museum. He lived for several years at the site of Kromdraai, serving as a security official in addition to his responsibilities as a field excavator. He passed away at a young age.

  • DITSONG National Museum of Natural History unsung heroes curators
  • DITSONG National Museum of Natural History unsung heroes curators
  • DITSONG National Museum of Natural History unsung heroes curators
  • DITSONG National Museum of Natural History unsung heroes curators
  • DITSONG National Museum of Natural History unsung heroes curators

Obet Sepeng and Reinette Mathabathe prepared fossils for many years, working together using acetic acid. They assisted Brain and Thackeray, preparing fossils from Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Plovers Lake.
     Reinette also made excellent casts of ‘Mrs Ples’, which were very much in demand in 1997 when the 50th anniversary of the discovery of this famous fossil from Sterkfontein was celebrated.

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