- LONDON (Reuters) - The oldest
humans just got older -- by 35,000 years.
- Two Homo sapiens skulls, originally dated as 130,000
years old when they were unearthed in Kibish, Ethiopia in 1967, then later
put back to 160,000, have now been declared 195,000 years old based on
- "It pushes back the beginning of the anatomically
modern humans," said geologist Frank Brown, Dean of the University
of Utah's College of Mines and Earth Sciences and co-author of a new study
into the skulls known as Omo I and Omo II.
- The results of a study with New York's Stony Brook University
and the Australian National University were published in the science journal
- After looking at the volcanic ash where the skulls were
found along the Omo river, the researchers not only dated the remains as
the same age but pushed back the date of their existence, making them by
far the oldest humans.
- "On this basis we suggest that hominid fossils Omo
I and Omo II are relatively securely dated to 195 +/- 5 (thousand) years
old ... making Omo I and Omo II the oldest anatomically modern human fossils
yet recovered," the study concluded.
- The new dating firmly underpins the "out of Africa"
theory of the origin of modern humans.
- Brown said the redating was important culturally because
it pushed back the known dawn of mankind, the record of which in most cases
only starts 50,000 years ago.
- "Which would mean 150,000 years of Homo sapiens
without cultural stuff such as evidence of eating fish, of harpoons, anything
to do with music, needles, even tools," he said.
- "This stuff all comes in very late except for stone
knife blades, which appeared between 50,000 and 200,000 years ago, depending
on whom you believe," he added in a commentary.
- The skulls were first discovered just 200 meters apart
on the shores of what was formerly a lake by a team led by renowned fossil
hunter and wildlife expert Richard Leakey.
- They bear cut marks made by stone tools which have been
taken as evidence of prehistoric mortuary practices.
- Ever since the discovery of the fossil skulls, scientists
have not only been locked in debate over the dating but also of the physical
types because Omo I has more modern features than Omo II.
- The new dating suggests that modern man and his older
precursor existed side by side.
- "It dates the fossil record almost exactly concordant
with the dates suggested by genetic studies for the origin of our species,"
said Stony Brook anthropologist John Fleagle.
- "Second, it places the first appearance of modern
Homo sapiens in Africa many more thousands of years before our species
appears on any other continent. It lengthens the gap," he added.
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