BRADSHAW FOUNDATION - MIGRATION ARTICLES

Discovery of Earliest Homo Sapien Skulls backs 'Out of Africa' Theory



by Clive Cookson, Science Editor

The oldest known fossils of modern humans have been discovered in Herto, Ethiopia. An international team led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found the skulls of two adults and a child dating from 160,000 years ago - 40,000 years earlier than the previous oldest remains of Homo sapiens.

The discovery, described today in the journal Nature, fills a big gap in the human fossil record; the absence of accurately dated hominid remains in Africa between 120,000 and 300,000 years ago.
Is Homo floresiensis a dwarf Homo erectus, the product of local evolution that has taken place over a period of at least 840,000 years in a confined habitat?
out of africa

Scientists say there are two implications for palaeontology. Firstly they provide new evidence for the 'Out of Africa' theory - that modern humans evolved only in Africa and not in several places around the world.

Secondly, says Clark Howell of UC Berkeley, "the fossils are unmistakably non Neanderthal and show that (modern) humans had evolved in Africa long before the European Neanderthals disappeared. They demonstrate conclusively that there was never a Neanderthal stage in human evolution."

herto discovery ethiopia

The fossils come from Herto village in the middle Awash area of Ethiopia about 140 miles north-east of Addis Ababa - one of the world’s richest hunting grounds for palaeontologists. The Berkeley team and its Ethiopian colleagues have previously found pre-human remains there of the genus Ardipithecus from about 5.5m years ago. They are some of the earliest hominids ever discovered.

Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum says the new finds "are complete enough to be identified as early modern humans, since they show the characteristic globular shape of the braincase and the facial features of our species. But both the adult skulls are huge and robust, and also show resemblances to more primitive African fossils"

The bones have been allocated to the sub-species Homo sapiens idaltu. Contemporary humans are Homo sapiens sapiens.

herto fossil skulls

All three skulls show evidence of human modification such as cut marks, apparently representing mortuary practices rather than cannibalism. Associated volcanic sediments were dated by a reliable isotope method to 160,000 years, while archaeological layers showed evidence of the butchery of big game such a hippopotamus and a range of stone axes and other tools.

It remains unclear, however, whether the evolution of Homo sapiens occurred rapidly in only one region of Africa or was a more widespread and gradual process across the continent. Although east of Africa now has the oldest clear evidence of modern human origins, archaeological finds suggest that southern Africa may have played an important part in the development of modern human behaviour.

"So we will need further evidence from the whole continent to build up a complete picture of how our species began," says Mr. Stringer. "Nevertheless the Herto fossils are landmark finds in unravelling our origins?".

Origins - Exploring the Fossil Record
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates

Email

First Name

Last Name

Country

Prints
Podcast
bradshaw foundation podcast
DVD
bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Coso Range Nevada Oregon Territory Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Portable Art Research Paper Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Tanum Rock Art Museum Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes List of Research Papers Other Websites Contact the Foundation