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Clear View for the Phillip V. Tobias Fossil Primate and Hominid Laboratory

Clear View for the Phillip V. Tobias Fossil Primate and Hominid Laboratory

Date posted: September 10, 2014 // Schott Special Glass

The Phillip V. Tobias Fossil Primate and Hominid Laboratory, at the University of the Witwatersrand, has recently been relocated from the School of Anatomical Sciences to a new facility at the Evolutionary Studies Institute, Wits Paleosciences Centre.  This facility houses hominin material from the sites of Sterkfontein, Taung, Makapansgat, Drimolen, Gondolin, Coopers Cave, Gladysvale, Border Cave, Plovers Lake and most recently, Malapa and Dinaledi.  To create a suitable display for these and other valuable fossils in the new laboratory, Labotec Industrial Technologies supplied 46 pieces of Schott Conturan anti-reflective glass for an absolutely clear view of all specimen on display.  The Schott Conturan glass combines two significant benefits; it lets more light through and reduces reflections to provide unrestricted views.


A special dipping process to coat the Schott Conturan glass with layers of metal oxide is used in the manufacturing process.  The advantages of using this glass for the displays is a better viewing experience with the reduction of any irritating reflections, a better view of any dimply lit items, a high transmission of light and resistance to chemical attack and abrasion.


The famous Taung Skull, the holotype of Australopithecus africanus, widely recognised as the world’s most famous hominin fossil is held here. Other ‘iconic’ fossils include the StW 505 canium, StW 431 partial skeleton, the complete skeletons of StW 573 ‘Little Foot’ (thought to be Australopithecus Prometheus) and several individuals of Australopithecus sediba from Malapa and newly discovered homins from Dinaledi. This facility therefore houses to date four hominin holotypes and a number of papionin types and represents the largest hominin collection in the world and the finest facility of its kind anywhere.


The laboratory has been divided into two sections, an entrance ‘passage’ containing two  rooms for scientists to work in. Immediately attached to this area, is a large vault containing state of the art, ergonomically designed shelving and cupboards against all of the wall space. The shelves are protected by shatterproof sliding glass and secured by locks for each section. Provision is made for the extensive cast collection as well as comparative fauna. The centre of the laboratory  contains a large table, which would be used for the study of fossils, lectures and workshops.

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