Maropeng mourns Prof Phillip Tobias

It is with deep sadness that the Maropeng Visitor Centre expresses its condolences at the passing of the highly-esteemed South African palaeoanthropologist, Professor Phillip Tobias, who died on Thursday, June 7, 2012.

Maropeng’s Managing Director, Tony Rubin, says Tobias inspired many. “His name is synonymous with the Cradle of Humankind. This is a great loss to the scientific community. He will be terribly missed but his work will continue to inspire many.” In his career Tobias made an enormous contribution to palaeoanthropology through his pioneering work and research on hominid discoveries at the Cradle of Humankind.

Maropeng Visitor Centre

(From left) Sterkfontein Caves operations supervisor Reuben Tsime, Professor Phillip Tobias and Maropeng tour guide Mathabela Tsikoane at the Broom Colloquium which took place at in November 2011

Tobias celebrated his 80th birthday at the opening of Sterkfontein Caves in 2005. His major career highlight was in East Africa where he named and identified the earliest species of the Homo genus, Homo habilis, which Tobias and Louis Leakey found in Olduvai Gorge in the early 1960s. Tobias excavated at Sterkfontein Caves, where ‘Little Foot’ and ‘Mrs Ples’ were discovered, and at many other fossil sites in Southern Africa. Besides palaeoanthropology, Tobias’s research covered human biology, both areas of work that took him across the world. During his time at Wits, Tobias was a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa, and campaigned actively for its abolition.

Lindsay Marshall, Maropeng’s Curator, dealt with Tobias on various occasions and says each experience was a privilege. “He was always such a gentleman, and it was with shock and great sadness that I heard about his death. It’s the end of an era as he was one of the pioneers in palaeoanthropolgy in South Africa. He will be sorely missed,” she concludes.


Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]

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