Before today, it was reckoned that the oldest signs on the planet of human kind were dated to 2.35m years ago (an upper jaw found in Hadar, Ethiopia). This latest find--in the Ledi-Geraru research area, also in Ethiopia, and close to where the iconic ‘Lucy’ was found--has been dated at 2.8 million years old and, from the back teeth, is also reckoned as being of human (‘homo’) kind, and has therefore pushed the beginnings of the human story back by (almost) ½ million years.
The jawbone was found by by Ethiopian student Chalachew Seyoum. He was working under the direction of Prof Brian Villmoare of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, USA.
The moment I found it, I realised that it was important, as this is the time period represented by few (human) fossils in Eastern Africa.
The Rift Valley in Ethiopia seems to be a treasure trove for early hominid (human-like primate) & human finds. The most famous of these was Lucy, found in 1974, dated at 3.2 million years & designated as Australopithecus afarensis. Lucy was not human, but is reckoned to be the youngest of it’s kind that could possibly have evolved into the first human species. The earliest full-body Homo remains found are for Homo erectus, and these are 2 million years old.
That gap between Lucy & Homo erectus is more than a million years, and is a great frustration for scientists, as they have no clear path for evolution between the two. This latest find marks another small addition into what may become a bridge of understanding.
--------- Alex Kemp