• Craniofacial biomechanics;
  • Phylogeny;
  • Buttressing system


The australopithecine anterior pillars defined by Rak (The Australopithecine Face, New York: Academic Press, 1983) were re-examined in the fossil hominids of southern Africa. The structure and extent of this buttressing pillar was found to be variable among Australopithecus africanus and A. robustus specimens. A reduced anterior pillar was observed in Homo habilis, and a morphological equivalent can be discerned in modern specimens of H. sapiens. The anterior pillars and associated features can be viewed as a response to the occlusal forces of the entire anterolateral dentition, with a special affinity to the canine but limited functional relationship to the “molarized” premolars. Furthermore, a functional assessment of the hominid masticatory biomechanics implies that the adaptations of A. africanus are well within our expectations of a viable ancestor to the genus Homo and are not irrevocably derived toward a “robust” type of adaptation.