Karoo Palaeontology Collection


The Karoo section is a small collection of 6,000 fossil fish, plants, Amphibia, Reptilia and Synapsida. It spans over seven of the biozones (called Assemblage Zones) of the Beaufort Group. This collection dates back to 1897 when a collection of European fossils was purchased from Germany.

The main collection was built up by E.C.N. van Hoepen, with substantial additions by R. Broom until the 1950’s, when collecting halted. New permits were acquired during the last ten years so that collecting and research now continue.


As mentioned above the German fossil collection was the first to be deposited. Dr E.C.N. van Hoepen was employed by the Committee to purchase fossils from farmers in the Karoo. Van Hoepen not only collected and catalogued, but also published detailed descriptions of his newly created species. He resigned in 1921 and Dr R. Broom took over in 1935, adding 23 types to the collection. Dr J.T. Robinson joined the department in 1946 and went on several collecting trips until he resigned in 1963.

The type collection is one of the largest in South Africa and attracts many national and international researchers. The collection boasts exquisitely acid prepared Thrinaxodon material which is currently being studied with the aid of finite element analysis. The specialty of the present curator, Dr Heidi Fourie (hfourie@ditsong.org.za), is the postcranium of a group called the Therocephalia. She describes the morphology of the bones and also reconstructs muscles in an effort to elucidate their stance and gait.