Rare 3.8-Million-Year-Old Fossil Reveals Incredible Face Of Human Ancestor

Rare 3.8-Million-Year-Old Fossil Reveals Incredible Face Of Human Ancestor

An amazing find in an Ethiopian goat pen showed a skull which belongs to an early human ancestor called Australopithecus anamensis.

A National Geographic study published on August 28th revealed that a 3.8-million-year-old fossil had been discovered in Ethiopia. The fossil has been declared a skull which reveals the face of one of the ancestors of human beings.  The fossil is currently in the possession of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.


The study found that the new specimen that was discovered, is the oldest skull ever found of an australopithecine, a pivotal group of early human ancestors that lived between 1.5 and four million years ago. The journal Nature described the find as the "first skull ever found of Australopithecus anamensis, one of the earliest members of that genus." The journal and study were conducted by Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and co-authors.

“It takes you back about 3.8 million years to think about what our ancestors looked like at that time,” says the study’s lead author, Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a paleoanthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “It’s really an exciting moment.”



This most incredible discovery could help us find the answers to several important questions in the study of human evolution. The fossils of these human ancestors, otherwise known as hominins, aren't usually found to be as old as this particular one here. Not to mention, most fossils that are found are merely fragments of bone that only give evolutionists a real headache as they attempt to analyze them. However, this very skull that was found in Ethiopia is completely different. It's intact for the most part and allows us to uncover many key details on how our earliest ancestors lived and adapted.  



"The fossil was found in 2016, in what was once sand deposited in a river delta on the shore of the lake. At the time the creature lived, the area was largely dry shrubland with some trees. Other work has shown A. anamensis evidently walked upright, but there’s no evidence that it flaked stone to make tools," said study co-author Stephane Melillo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

“It’s the skull we've been waiting for,” says Carol Ward, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Missouri who wasn’t involved with the study. “Hominin skulls are these exceptionally rare treasures, and to find one this old and this complete is almost unprecedented.”


 In another study published by Nature. it was found that one tuff above the skull formed between 3.76 and 3.77 million years ago, and a second below the skull formed slightly more than 3.8 million years ago. In addition, researchers pieced together the skull’s burial environment: They found that the skull was buried in a river delta on a lakeshore, surrounded by shrubland and patches of trees. “It probably was either along the river or along the shores of this lake. It died there, and then it was transported down and buried in the delta,” says Saylor, a stratigrapher at Case Western Reserve University.



Several important finds have propelled Ethiopia and the surrounding region to the forefront of paleontology. The oldest hominid discovered to date in Ethiopia is the 4.2 million-year-old Ardipithicus ramidus (Ardi) found by Tim D. White in 1994. Ethiopia is also considered one of the earliest sites of the emergence of anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens.



Some scientists say that confirming this evolutionary scenario will require more fossils. “In order to have confidence ... one needs really good sample sizes, both within time planes and across times,” says William Kimbel, a paleoanthropologist at Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins who wasn't involved with the study. “You cannot make a strong claim on the mode of evolution based on only two specimens.”


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