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Oldest Human Fossils Discovered

Science Archaeology

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#1 TravelerOfTheWays



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Posted 12 June 2003 - 04:59 PM

As I signed out of my hotmail account....

The Story

A couple of quotes...


         DISCOVERED IN ETHIOPIA’S fossil-rich Afar region, the skulls have clearly modern features — a prominent forehead, flattened face and reduced brow — that contrast with older humans’ projecting, heavy-browed skulls.
       “They’re not quite completely modern, but they’re well on their way. They’re close enough to call Homo sapiens,” said Tim White, a University of California, Berkeley paleontologist who was co-leader of the international team that excavated and analyzed the skulls.
       Previously, the earliest fossils of Homo sapiens found in Africa had been dated to about 130,000 to 100,000 years, although they were less complete and sometimes poorly dated, White said.
       The new skulls, which were dated at between 160,000 and 154,000 years old, are described in two papers that appear in Thursday’s issue of Nature.


       The skulls were found in a desolate area about 140 miles northeast of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, near the village of Herto.  
      Skull fragments from a total of 10 individuals were unearthed, but conspicuously lacking were their jaws and any bones below the neck.
       White said two of the skulls appear to have been scraped clean of flesh, suggesting an ancient mortuary practice, or possibly cannibalism.
       Scattered across the same area were thousands of stone tools, including hand axes, along with the butchered bones of hippopotamus and antelope. White said the site, once the lush shoreline of a large lake, was probably a seasonal foraging ground for the humans.

One more for the archaelogy sluts!  :D

EDIT to correct type demon! How embarrassing  :blush:

Edited by TravelerOfTheWays, 13 June 2003 - 06:30 AM.

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#2 eryn


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Posted 13 June 2003 - 05:33 AM

Psst.. it's "archaeology" ;)

But thanks for the article :)

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#3 Rhea


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Posted 13 June 2003 - 05:36 AM

Wahoo! This particular archaeology slut thanks you! :D :D :p
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#4 Alex


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Posted 13 June 2003 - 05:59 AM

Rhea, on Jun 12 2003, 02:40 PM, said:

Wahoo! This particular archaeology slut thanks you! :D :D :p
*frightened* :blink:

That's pretty interesting! :)
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#5 Delvo

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 10:35 AM

Actually, it's not archćology in this case anyway; it's palćontology or a subset thereof called palćoanthropology, since it's fossils and not other artifacts...

#6 Delvo

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 11:21 AM

TravelerOfTheWays, on Jun 12 2003, 12:03 AM, said:

       White said two of the skulls appear to have been scraped clean of flesh, suggesting an ancient mortuary practice, or possibly cannibalism.
       Scattered across the same area were thousands of stone tools, including hand axes
I watch articles like this for anything new or different they might imply for the way I/we looked at human evolution before the news came out. For example, they didn't say anything seems to have been noteworthy so far about the tools, and I presume that they WOULD have said so if there'd been anything remarkable about them. It would have been remarkable, for example, to see the really specialized fish hooks, sewing needles, multi-part tools like spears and true axes and atlatls, or any tools made of bone instead of stone, which seem to have come along later. So this fits into the existing idea.

But what is new here is the skull-scraping. If it's cannibalism, then I think it's the earliest evidence for it. But that's a tough one to believe, since you don't get much from a scalp. The more likely thing to me would seem to be that it's a mortuary ritual, or a war thing like Amer-Ind "scalping", or a symbolic sacrifice of a captive for religious reasons, or some way of making something from the dead for symbolic/artistic/philosophical reasons... something that doesn't serve a practical purpose but reflects something "extra" going on in these people's minds. That's easily the earliest evidence of that in our species, and might be the earliest in our genus.

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