Saturday, 7 March 2015

Ethiopian jawbone may mark dawn of humankind

A 2.8-million-year-old mandible and a digital model of a key fossil paint a complicated picture of the genus Homo.

04 March 2015

The 2.8-million-year-old jawbone that may have come from the first Homo.

A 2.8-million-year-old battered jawbone from Ethiopia may represent the earliest ancient human fossil ever discovered — pushing back the known origins of humankind by 500,000 years. The remains, alongside a digital reconstruction of a damaged fossil from a key early-human species, point to an evolutionary explosion at the dawn of our genus, Homo.

Modern humans, Homo sapiens, are the latest link in a chain of ancestry that stretches back 5 to 7 million years to a common ancestor with chimpanzees and bonobos, humanity's two closest living relatives. An incomplete fossil record means that researchers have had a hard time finding the other links of that chain, and distinguishing true human ancestors from evolutionary dead-ends — side branches in the family tree.

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