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New Clues Add 40,000 Years to Age of Human Species

not only helps us resolve an anthropological mystery, but it provides a whole new perspective on the history of the Turkana Basin, a setting that has provided so much important evidence regarding human evolution,?says Brown.

“However, while our research pushes back our time of origin," he adds, “most cultural aspects of humanity appear much later in the record—only 50,000 years ago—which would mean 150,000 years of Homo sapiens without harpoons, music, needles or even most tools. This is another mystery yet to be solved," he said.

When Richard Leakey, F. Clark Howell, Camile Arambourg and teams of Kenyan, American and French researchers first ventured to the Lake Turkana region in 1967, they searched for the earliest remains of pre-human ancestors. Modern humans were not a priority at the time, and when members of the Kenyan team found Omo I and Omo II, the specimens failed to create much of a stir.

Since that early expedition, supported by both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Geographic Society, the age of the Omo hominids has become somewhat more controversial, and more critical, to understanding the dawn of Homo sapiens.

Since the 1980s, almost everyone agreed that our ancestors originated on the African continent, but they differed on when modern humans first evolved, how humans dispersed to populate the globe, and what happened when, or if, modern humans encountered other hominid species in Eurasia.

“For several decades, the Kibish fossils have been a key element in arguments for an ancient origin of modern humans in Africa, yet one for which the age and provenance of the fossils was repeatedly contested,?notes Fleagle.

At the request of their Ethiopian colleague Zelalem Assefa, now at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., the NSF-supported team of anthropologists, geologists and paleontologists revisited the site in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Source:National Science Foundation


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