skulls of different hominins

The earliest known hominins were for a long time were thought to come from the genus “Australopithecus” , which first appeared between 3 million and 4 million years ago. But now, after discoveries made in the 1990s and early 2000s, many scientists think the oldest hominins belong to another genus, “Ardipithecus”, that first appeared at least 4 million years ago and may be as old as six million years old. Some even older creatures that have been discovered may be hominins. A genus is a class of animals or plants that usually consist of more than one species.

There are many out there that still believe Australopithecus is the oldest hominin. They don’t regard Ardipithecus as a hominin. There are also some who don’t regard Australopithecus as a hominin either. Australopithecus means "southern ape" a reference to the fact that the first Australopithecus fossils were found in southern Africa. [Sources: Australopithecus, Rick Gore, National Geographic, February 1997; Australopithecus, Donald Johanson, National Geographic, March 1996]

Australopithecus mostly lived between two million and four million years. Some have said the genus may be as old as 7.5 million years. In February 1984 an Australopithecine jawbone with two molars — dated at 4 million years ago by nearby fossils and 5.4-5.6 million years ago by rocks — was found near Lake Baringo, Kenya.

The genus Australopithecus is considered the likely precursor of the genus Homo, to which modern humans belong. Though its cranium is comparable to a chimpanzee's, Australopithecus walked upright, as humans do. This was a surprise to anthropologists when the first Australopithecines were discovered because it had been assumed that big-brain of Homo was preceded by a big-brain ancestor, and having a big brain and walking upright evolved together. [Source: Wikipedia]

Scientists have different theories about which hominins evolved into more developed species and which hominins lead to evolutionary dead ends. Some scientists believed that the “Homo” genus evolved from “Australopithecus afarensis” . Others believe it developed from “Australopithecus afarensis” . “Australopithecus Bosei” and “Australopithecus robustus” are believed to be evolutionary dead ends because they lived at the same time as “Homo” species. The various theories are difficult to prove.

Websites and Resources on Hominins and Human Origins: Smithsonian Human Origins Program humanorigins.si.edu ; Institute of Human Origins iho.asu.edu ; Becoming Human University of Arizona site becominghuman.org ; Talk Origins Index talkorigins.org/origins ; Last updated 2006. Hall of Human Origins American Museum of Natural History amnh.org/exhibitions ; Wikipedia article on Human Evolution Wikipedia ; Human Evolution Images evolution-textbook.org; Hominin Species talkorigins.org ; Paleoanthropology Links talkorigins.org ; Britannica Human Evolution britannica.com ; Human Evolution handprint.com ; National Geographic Map of Human Migrations genographic.nationalgeographic.com ; Humin Origins Washington State University wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules ; University of California Museum of Anthropology ucmp.berkeley.edu; BBC The evolution of man" bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life; "Bones, Stones and Genes: The Origin of Modern Humans" (Video lecture series). Howard Hughes Medical Institute.; Human Evolution Timeline ArchaeologyInfo.com ; Walking with Cavemen (BBC) bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life ; PBS Evolution: Humans pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans; PBS: Human Evolution Library www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library; Human Evolution: you try it, from PBS pbs.org/wgbh/aso/tryit/evolution; John Hawks' Anthropology Weblog johnhawks.net/ ; New Scientist: Human Evolution newscientist.com/article-topic/human-evolution; Fossil Sites and Organizations: The Paleoanthropology Society paleoanthro.org; Institute of Human Origins (Don Johanson's organization) iho.asu.edu/; The Leakey Foundation leakeyfoundation.org; The Stone Age Institute stoneageinstitute.org; The Bradshaw Foundation bradshawfoundation.com ; Turkana Basin Institute turkanabasin.org; Koobi Fora Research Project kfrp.com; Maropeng Cradle of Humankind, South Africa maropeng.co.za ; Blombus Cave Project web.archive.org/web; Journals: Journal of Human Evolution journals.elsevier.com/; American Journal of Physical Anthropology onlinelibrary.wiley.com; Evolutionary Anthropology onlinelibrary.wiley.com; Comptes Rendus Palevol journals.elsevier.com/ ; PaleoAnthropology paleoanthro.org.


At least eight species of Australopithecus (collectively known as Australopithecines) have been identified. It is not clear how they were related. Some are called robust australopithecines (australopiths) because they had heavy features and large jaws with powerful muscles for smashing and grinding tough food. The other species had heavy jaws but were more slightly built.

Lucy — of the species Australopithecus afarensis (which lived about 3.9 million to 2.9 million years ago at several sites in Ethiopia and Kenya) — and the Taung Child — of the species Australopithecus africanus (lived about 3.3 million to 2.1 million years ago in southern Africa) — are the most famous Australopithecus fossils. Catharine Paddock wrote in Medical News Today: “For a long time, it was thought that humans descended in a straight line from one pre-human species living 3 million to 4 million years ago. This theory was backed up by the fossil record - including the discovery of Lucy - until the end of the 20th century. [Source: Catharine Paddock PhD, Medical News Today, May 28, 2015]

“But then, the new century brought some surprises - researchers discovered Kenyanthropus platyops in Kenya and Australopithecus bahrelghazali in Chad. Both these species date from Lucy's period - challenging the idea that humans descended from a single hominin species. At first, scientists were highly sceptical following the discoveries in Kenya and Chad. But some started to change their view when in 2012, Dr. Haile-Selassie announced the discovery of the 3.4 million-year-old Burtele partial foot fossil, confirming the likelihood of multiple hominin species living at the same time 3 million to 4 million years ago.”

when different hominins lived

Different Australopithecines

1) Australopithecus africanus
a) A. africanus (lived about 3.3 million to 2.1 million years ago in southern Africa)
b) A. deyiremeda (lived about 3.5 -3.3 million years ago in northern Ethiopia)
c) A. garhi (lived about 2.5 million years ago in Ethiopia)
d) A. sediba (lived about 2 million years ago in southern Africa)

2) Also called Paranthropus (lived about 2.6 million to 1.1 million years ago)
a) P. aethiopicus (lived about 2.5 million years ago in southern Ethiopia)
b) P. robustus (lived about 2 million to 1.2 million years ago in southern Africa)
c) P. boisei (lived about 2.4 million to 1.4 million years ago in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania)

3) Also called Praeanthropus
a) A. afarensis (lived about 3.9 million to 2.9 million years ago at several sites in Ethiopia and Kenya)
b) A. anamensis (lived about 4.2 million to 3.9 million years ago at several sites in Ethiopia and Kenya)
c) A. bahrelghazali (lived about 3.6 million years ago in Chad)

Complexity of the Hominid Scene 3 Million Years Ago

Pete Spotts wrote in Christian Science Monitor: “New fossils from Ethiopia are providing fresh evidence that some 3 million to 4 million years ago, ancestors to modern humans may have been more diverse than previously thought. That diversity would have led to an inadvertent test to see which species was best able to weather changes in climate and habitat during that period, some researchers suggest. So far, that would appear to be Australopithecus afarensis, represented by its most famous example, Lucy, discovered in 1974 by Donald Johanson and Tom Gray. [Source: Pete Spotts, Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 2015]

skulls of different hominins

“But Lucy and her species were not the only Australopithecines on the block. Over the years, researchers have reported uncovering two additional species from this period. If this latest discovery holds up, it would bring to four the number of known Australopithecus species living within this million-year span. These species range from Ethiopia to Chad. The research team that found the new fossils – upper and lower jaws that included teeth – have classified the find as belonging to a new species of hominin, a subset of hominids that includes modern humans and our direct ancestors. The researchers suggest that the new species, which they have dubbed Australopithecus deyiremeda, was a close relative to A. afarensis. The team's analysis appeared the journal Nature.

“A. deyiremeda's remains were found at a site in Ethiopia's Afar region known as Woranso-Mille, about 22 miles north of another site rich in A. afarensis fossils – pointing to the possibility that the two species roamed the same general region at about the same time. With several Australopithecus species living in eastern and central Africa in the same general period, "we're looking at hominins who are potential candidates as human ancestors," says Henry Bunn, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. During this period, known as the middle Pliocene, the climate was getting cooler and drier. Vegetation and food resources were changing.

“Looking at these Australopithecines, "you could almost think of them as ecological experiments as populations try to exploit new habitats and new resources successfully," says Dr. Bunn, who was not a member of the research team. "Most of those species went extinct."

In the past, researchers had broken the last 5 million years of hominin evolution into blocks of 1 million to 2 million years, he explains. Based on the fossil evidence available at the time, "you only had one species per block of time," he says. At about 2 million years ago, with the emergence of the genus Homo, hominins became more diverse.

With Lucy and subsequent discoveries, it now appears that the middle Pliocene also hosted a diverse array of hominins that included at least one additional group beyond Australopithecines – a group represented by Kenyanthropus platyops. The newly discovered jawbones and teeth – dated to between 3.5 and 3.3 million years ago – shared some characteristics with A. afarensis and others with K. platyops. This period also coincides with the appearance of the earliest stone tools yet found, a discovery announced last week in another paper in Nature.

“The new species is yet another confirmation that Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, was not the only potential human ancestor species," according to Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History who headed the team making the discovery. “Current fossil evidence from the Woranso-Mille study area clearly shows that there were at least two, if not three, early human species living at the same time and in close geographic proximity,” he said in a prepared statement.

Australopithecus anemensis

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Australopithecus anemensis
”Australopithecus anemensis” is the oldest known member of the Australopithecus genus. “Anamnesis” means "of the lake." The early hominin had a jaw that resembled a chimpanzee but a shinbone that suggested it walked upright on two feet. [Source: Meave Leakey, National Geographic, September 1995]

Geologic Age About 4.2 million to 3.9 million years. Size: Male; 5 feet 1 inch, 112 pounds. females: 4 feet 3 inches, 73 pounds. Linkage to Modern Man: Strong evidence it walked upright.

Discovery Sites: “Australopithecus anemensis” was named “anamnesis” ("of the lake") because it was found near Lake Turkana. A 4.1 million-year-old jawbone and 3.5 million-year-old arm bone were found by Dr. Meave Leakey at Kanapoi, near Lake Turkana, and Allia Bay around Lake Turkana in 1996. Leakey's Hominin Gang found 21 bone specimens between 3.9 million and 4.2 million years old. Meave Leaky is the wife of Richard Leakey and daughter in law of Louis and Mary Leakey.

Skull Features: Similar in some ways to the Australopithecus species that followed but distinctly ape-like in other ways. The teeth are vaguely human-looking teeth but the jaw has an apelike mandible. Body Features: Joint surfaces and the strength on the lower leg bone (tibia) indicate a bipedal gate. Long ape-like arms. There is little difference between Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus anemensis

Significance of Australopithecus anemensis

Australopithecus anemensis jawbone

“A. Anemensis” is among the first known creature with an upright human-like walk. The top of the shinbone (tibia) is thick enough to support the extra weight for walking and the knob at the top of the bone is concave (as opposed to convex in apes), anchoring a more stable knee joint needed for balance. The Ardipithecus genus were also walkers. They are older than “A. Anemensis”. See Ardipithecus (Ardi).

Describing the significance of the shinbone, South African paleontologist Lee Berger told Time, "there probably isn't another bone more linked with balance and walking, and this one is absolutely remarkable. It's morphologically very advanced — surprisingly human-like."

Fossils found with “A. anamnesis” indicate that the hominin lived in forested areas, which means that it learned to walk in a place with trees not the open savannah. The teeth are covered in thick enamel which means that diet probably included nut and hard fruit.

Australopithecus Deyiremeda

Australopithecus deyiremeda lived about 3.3-3.5 million years ago. The discovery of its remains were announced in 2015. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Leakey Foundation reported: Upper and lower jaw fossils recovered from the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia have been assigned to the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. This hominin lived alongside the famous “Lucy’s” species, Australopithecus afarensis. The species is described in the May 28, 2015 issue of the journal Nature. [Source: Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Leakey Foundation, May 28, 2015 \^^/]

“Lucy’s species lived from 2.9 million years ago to 3.8 million years ago, overlapping in time with the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. The new species is the most conclusive evidence for the contemporaneous presence of more than one closely related early human ancestor species prior to 3 million years ago. The species name “deyiremeda” (day-ihreme-dah) means “close relative” in the language spoken by the Afar people. \^^/

“Australopithecus deyiremeda differs from Lucy’s species in terms of the shape and size of its thick-enameled teeth and the robust architecture of its lower jaws. The anterior teeth are also relatively small indicating that it probably had a different diet. “The new species is yet another confirmation that Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, was not the only potential human ancestor species that roamed in what is now the Afar region of Ethiopia during the middle Pliocene,” said lead author and Woranso-Mille project team leader Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.” The researchers say the fossils also show evidence of tooth and jaw traits that were thought to have appeared much later in the human family tree. “Current fossil evidence from the Woranso-Mille study area clearly shows that there were at least two, if not three, early human species living at the same time and in close geographic proximity.”“The age of the new fossils is very well constrained by the regional geology, radiometric dating, and new paleomagnetic data,” said co-author Dr. Beverly Saylor of Case Western Reserve University. The combined evidence from radiometric, paleomagnetic, and depositional rate analyses yields estimated minimum and maximum ages of 3.3 and 3.5 million years.” \^^/

20120202-Stammbaum_der_Entwicklung_des_Menschen 2.png

Australopithecus Deyiremeda Confirms Several Australopithecine Species Lived at the Same Time

Pete Spotts wrote in Christian Science Monitor: “New fossils from Ethiopia are providing fresh evidence that some 3 million to 4 million years ago, ancestors to modern humans may have been more diverse than previously thought. Lucy and her species were not the only Australopithecines on the block. Over the years, researchers have reported uncovering two additional species from this period. If this latest discovery holds up, it would bring to four the number of known Australopithecus species living within this million-year span. These species range from Ethiopia to Chad. [Source: Pete Spotts, Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 2015]

“The research team that found the new fossils – upper and lower jaws that included teeth – have classified the find as belonging to a new species of hominin, a subset of hominids that includes modern humans and our direct ancestors. The researchers suggest that the new species, which they have dubbed Australopithecus deyiremeda, was a close relative to A. afarensis. The team's analysis appeared the journal Nature.

“A. deyiremeda's remains were found at a site in Ethiopia's Afar region known as Woranso-Mille, about 22 miles north of another site rich in A. afarensis fossils – pointing to the possibility that the two species roamed the same general region at about the same time. With several Australopithecus species living in eastern and central Africa in the same general period, "we're looking at hominins who are potential candidates as human ancestors," says Henry Bunn, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. During this period, known as the middle Pliocene, the climate was getting cooler and drier. Vegetation and food resources were changing.

“This new species from Ethiopia takes the ongoing debate on early hominin diversity to another level,” said Haile-Selassie. “Some of our colleagues are going to be skeptical about this new species, which is not unusual. However, I think it is time that we look into the earlier phases of our evolution with an open mind and carefully examine the currently available fossil evidence rather than immediately dismissing the fossils that do not fit our long-held hypotheses,” said Haile-Selassie. [Source: Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Leakey Foundation, May 28, 2015 \^^/]

According to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Leakey Foundation: “Scientists have long argued that there was only one pre-human species at any given time between 3 and 4 million years ago, subsequently giving rise to another new species through time. This was what the fossil record appeared to indicate until the end of the 20th century. However, the naming of Australopithecus bahrelghazali from Chad and Kenyanthropus platyops from Kenya, both from the same time period as Lucy’s species, challenged this long-held idea. Although a number of researchers were skeptical about the validity of these species, the announcement by Haile-Selassie of the 3.4 million-year-old Burtele partial foot in 2012 cleared some of the skepticism on the likelihood of multiple early hominin species in the 3 to 4 million-year range. \^^/

“The Burtele partial fossil foot did not belong to a member of Lucy’s species. However, despite the similarity in geological age and close geographic proximity, the researchers have not assigned the partial foot to the new species due to lack of clear association. Regardless, the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda incontrovertibly confirms that multiple species did indeed co-exist during this time period. This discovery has important implications for our understanding of early hominin ecology. It also raises significant questions, such as how multiple early hominins living at the same time and geographic area might have used the shared landscape and available resources.” \^^/

Australopithecus sites

Discovery of Australopithecus Deyiremeda

Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Leakey Foundation reported: “The holotype (type specimen) of Australopithecus deyiremeda is an upper jaw with teeth discovered on March 4, 2011, on top of a silty clay surface at one of the Burtele localities. The paratype lower jaws were also surface discoveries found on March 4 and 5, 2011, at the same locality as the holotype and another nearby locality called Waytaleyta. The holotype upper jaw was found in one piece (except for one of the teeth which was found nearby), whereas the mandible was recovered in two halves that were found about two meters apart from each other. The other mandible was found about 2 kilometers east of where the Burtele specimens were found. [Source: Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Leakey Foundation, May 28, 2015 \^^/]

“The fossil specimens were found in the Woranso-Mille Paleontological Project study area located in the central Afar region of Ethiopia about 325 miles (520 kilometers) northeast of the capital Addis Ababa and 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of Hadar (“Lucy’s” site). Burtele and Waytaleyta are local names for the areas where the holotype and paratypes were found and they are located in the Mille district, Zone 1 of the Afar Regional State. \^^/

The Woranso-Mille Paleontological project conducts field and laboratory work in Ethiopia every year. This multidisciplinary project is led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Additional co-authors of this research include: Dr. Luis Gibert of University of Barcelona (Spain), Dr. Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute (Leipzig, Germany), Dr. Timothy M. Ryan of Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Mulugeta Alene of Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Drs. Alan Deino and Gary Scott of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, Dr. Naomi E. Levin of Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Beverly Z. Saylor of Case Western Reserve University. Graduate and undergraduate students from Ethiopia and the United States of America also participated in the field and laboratory activities of the project.”

Australopithecus Bahrelghazali

Australopithecus Bahrelghazali partial jawbone

The partial jawbone of a species called Australopithecus bahrelghazali was found in the mid-1990s in Chad. The early hominin lived 3.5 million to 3 million years ago 1,500 miles west of the Great Rift Valley, the region where most Australopithecus bones have been found. Pollen studies have shown they lived in forests of juniper and olive trees.

The University of Oxford reported: “Researchers involved in a new study led by Oxford University have found that between three million and 3.5 million years ago, the diet of our very early ancestors in central Africa is likely to have consisted mainly of tropical grasses and sedges. The findings are published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Source: University of Oxford, December 14, 2012]

“An international research team extracted information from the fossilised teeth of three Australopithecus bahrelghazali individuals — the first early hominins excavated at two sites in Chad. Professor Julia Lee-Thorp from Oxford University with researchers from Chad, France and the US analysed the carbon isotope ratios in the teeth and found the signature of a diet rich in foods derived from C4 plants.

“Professor Lee-Thorp, a specialist in isotopic analyses of fossil tooth enamel, from the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, said: “We found evidence suggesting that early hominins, in central Africa at least, ate a diet mainly composed of tropical grasses and sedges. No African great apes, including chimpanzees, eat this type of food despite the fact it grows in abundance in tropical and subtropical regions. The only notable exception is the savannah baboon which still forages for these types of plants today. We were surprised to discover that early hominins appear to have consumed more than even the baboons.”

“The research paper suggests this discovery demonstrates how early hominins experienced a shift in their diet relatively early, at least in Central Africa. The finding is significant in signalling how early humans were able to survive in open landscapes with few trees, rather than sticking only to types of terrain containing many trees. This allowed them to move out of the earliest ancestral forests or denser woodlands, and occupy and exploit new environments much farther afield, says the study.

“The fossils of the three individuals, ranging between three million and 3.5 million years old, originate from two sites in the Djurab desert. Today this is a dry, hyper-arid environment near the ancient Bahr el Ghazal channel which links the southern and northern Lake Chad sub-basins. However, in their paper the authors observe that at the time when Australopithecus bahrelghazali roamed, the area would have had reeds and sedges growing around a network of shallow lakes, with floodplains and wooded grasslands beyond.

“Previously, it was widely believed that early human ancestors acquired tougher tooth enamel, large grinding teeth and powerful muscles so they could eat foods like hard nuts and seeds. This research finding suggests that the diet of early hominins diverged from that of the standard great ape at a much earlier stage. The authors argue that it is unlikely that the hominins would have eaten the leaves of the tropical grasses as they would have been too abrasive and tough to break down and digest. Instead, they suggest that these early hominins may have relied on the roots, corms and bulbs at the base of the plant.

“Professor Lee-Thorp said: “Based on our carbon isotope data we can’t exclude the possibility that the hominins’ diets may have included animals that in turn ate the tropical grasses. But as neither humans nor other primates have diets rich in animal food, and of course the hominins are not equipped as carnivores are with sharp teeth, we can assume that they ate the tropical grasses and the sedges directly.”“

Australopithecus aethiopicus

Paranthropus boisei
Australopithecus aethiopicus: Geologic Age: 2.7 million to 2.3 million years. Size: Significantly larger than other Australopithecus species. About five feet tall. Brain Size: About the same as robustus (See Below). Discovery Sites: Omo region in Ethiopia and Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.

Skull Features: massive chewing muscles anchored to prominent bony crest along the top of the skull. Linkage to Modern Man: May be an ancestor of Robustus and boisei or may be different subspecies of a single, variable species. Believed to be an evolutionary dead end. Many scientists regard Australopithecus aethiopicus as a member of the Australopithecus boisei species.

According to the Smithsonian: “Paranthropus aethiopicus is still much of a mystery to paleoanthropologists, as very few remains of this species have been found. The discovery of the 2.5 million year old ’Black Skull’ in 1985 helped define this species as the earliest known robust australopithecine. P. aethiopicus has a strongly protruding face, large megadont teeth, a powerful jaw, and a well-developed sagittal crest on top of skull, indicating huge chewing muscles, with a strong emphasis on the muscles that connected toward the back of the crest and created strong chewing forces on the front teeth.[Source: Smithsonian Human Origins /==]

“Paranthropus aethiopicus was originally proposed in 1967 by a team of French paleontologists to describe a toothless partial mandible (Omo 18) that was thought to differ enough from the mandibles of the early human species known at that time. This naming of a new species was generally dismissed; many paleoanthropologists thought it premature to name a new species on the basis of a single incomplete mandible. In 1985, when Alan Walker and Richard Leakey discovered the famous "Black Skull" west of Lake Turkana in Kenya, the classification reemerged. With its mixture of derived and primitive traits, KNM-WT 17000 validated, in the eyes of many scientists, the recognition of a new "robust" australopithecine species dating to at least 2.5 million years ago in eastern Africa. /==\

“Many features of the skull are quite similar to Australopithecus afarensis, and P. aethiopicus may be a descendent of this species. It is most likely the ancestor of the robust australopithecine species found later in Eastern Africa, Paranthropus boisei. The dark color comes from minerals in the soil that were absorbed by the skull as it fossilized. The front teeth fell out and the others were broken off after the individual died. This is the only known adult skull of this species, which is considered a direct ancestor of Paranthropus boisei.” /==\

Australopithecus garhi

Australopithecus garhi

In April 2000, a team lead by Ethiopian Berhane Asfaw and Tim White of Berkeley announced in Science they discovered a new Australopithecus species, Australopithecus garhi, at the site of Bouri, Middle Awash in the Afar desert of Ethiopia. "Garhi" means surprise in the local language. Dated to around 2.5 million years ago , a crucial period when the early homo species were developing, the fossils consisted of skull and jaw fragments and teeth that showed a remarkable collection of primitive and advanced features.

Australopithecus garhi had protruding facial features and long arms like a chimpanzee; large teeth, three times the size of those on modern humans; and a brain one third the size of modern human. Its legs were long and human-like. A short distance away scientists found stone tools believed to have used by Australopithecus garhi. See First Hominid Tools.

According to the Smithsonian: “This species is not well documented; it is defined on the basis of one fossil cranium and four other skull fragments, although a partial skeleton found nearby, from about the same layer, is usually included as part of the Australopithecus garhi sample. The associated fragmentary skeleton indicates a longer femur (compared to other Australopithecus specimens, like ‘Lucy’) even though long, powerful arms were maintained. This suggests a change toward longer strides during bipedal walking. [Source: Smithsonian Human Origins]/==\

“The human fossil record is poorly known between 3 million and 2 million years ago, which makes the finds from the site of Bouri, Middle Awash Ethiopia, particularly important. First in 1990 and then from 1996 to 1998, a research team led by Ethiopian paleoanthropologist Berhane Asfaw and American paleoanthropologist Tim White found the partial skull (BOU-VP-12/130) and other skeletal remains of an early humans dated to around 2.5 million years old. In 1997, the team named the new species Australopithecus garhi; the word ‘garhi’ means ‘surprise’ in the Afar language. /==\

“Fossils of Australopithecus garhi are associated with some of the oldest known stone tools, along with animal bones that were cut and broken open with stone tools. It is possible, then, that this species was among the first to make the transition to stone toolmaking and to eating meat and bone marrow from large animals. Some scientists claim that the large molar teeth show that Australopithecus garhi is related to Paranthropus aethiopicus; however, the combination of features of the face, braincase, and teeth are unlike Paranthropus. The scientists who originally reported the finds think that Au. garhi may represent an ancestor of the genus Homo The skull has a curious mixture of Homo-like cranial features, an Australopithecus-like brain size, and large Paranthropus-sized teeth.” /==\

Early Hominin Tools: from Australopithecus garhi?

One of the oldest known hominid tools is a 2.6 million-year-old flaked scraping tool found in the Gona region of Ethiopia by a team lead by Sileshi Semaw, an Ethiopian archaeologist now at Indiana University. It is not known who used the tools. Scientists believed it was Australopithecus garhi.

The tools were probably used to break open bones and scrape out the marrow and perhaps to cut meat off the bones. Before this no tools had been linked with australopithecines before. Leg bone of other animals found near the tools had cut and chip marks and signs of hammering.

In 2003, Semaw's team found 2.6 million-year-old tools among bone fragments in the Gona area. Believed to have been used to cut up meat, the tools, scientists say, shed some light on which came first tools or better diets. Semaw told the New York Times, “I believe the stone tools came first and the larger brain came later with a more substantial meat diet."

An antelope jaw with cut marks, indicating its tongue was sliced out with a sharp stone flake was found on the Bouri Peninsuala in Lake Yardi in Ethiopia. The bones, dated to 2.5 million years ago, suggest the toolmakers used tools to scavenge meat and marrow from large animals. Curiously though no actual tools were found at the site. The discovery nearby of Australopithecus garhi bones indicate it again was the most likely the tool maker.

Australopithecus robustus

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Paranthropus robustus
Australopithecus robustus (also known as Paranthropus robustus) translates to "strongly and stoutly built southern man.” As its name implies it was larger and stronger than its predecessors. The species was first identified from four teeth and a jaw discovered by a South African school boy in 1938. Believed to have used bone tools. Geologic Age 1.9 million to 1.2 million years. Size: males: 4 feet, 4 inches, 88 pounds; females: 3 feet 7 inches, 71 pounds. About the same height as predecessors but more powerfully built. Brain Size: Slightly larger than predecessors. Linkage to Modern Man: Robustus and boisei may be different subspecies of a single, variable species. Believed to be an evolutionary dead end. [Source: Kenneth Weaver, National Geographic, November 1985 [┹]

Discovery Sites: Found in 1938 Krombraai, South Africa by Gert Terblanche and Robert Broom. No remains found in east Africa. A nearly complete skull was found in 1950 in Swartkrans, South Africa by E. Quarryman Fourie. Housed in Transvaal Museum, Pretoria. Remains have also been found in Makapansgat, South Africa.

A number of Australopithecus robustus fossils have been found at a cave site in South Africa called Drimolen. Among the discoveries is the most complete “A. robustus” skull ever found, dated to be 2 million years old. So far almost 80 “ A. robustus” specimens have been found and only 5 percent of the 20,000-square-foot site ha been excavated. [Source: Andre Keyser, National Geographic, May 2000]

Australopithecus robustus Skull and Body Features

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Paranthropus robustus
Skull Features: Massive jaw, no forehead and flat face with more prominent cheeks and less protruding jaw than earlier Australopithecus species. Sometimes called "ultimate chewing machine," it ate course, tough food such as nuts, hard-shelled fruits, fibrous tubers and roots.

Body Features: Ruggedly built and strong. The shape and organization of the hip and thigh indicate it was capable of bipedal movement. Hand bones indicate that its stout hand was capable of gripping stones in such as way as to make stone tools.

“Robustus” have as many teeth as modern humans (32). Judging from the amount of wear, and knowing at what age certain teeth sprout in modern men, University of Pennsylvania scientists determined that most “robustus” died at the age of 17.

Climates changes 2.5 million years ago caused drying and the resulting environmental changes produced coarser food. “A. robustus” developed large, powerful teeth to chew up rough foods like tubers, roots and seeds as opposed to softer food like fruit. Males developed such powerful jaws their jaw muscles were attached to the top of their head.

Australopithecus Robustus Food, Sex, and Leopards

Paranthropus robustus
In a study published in December 2007 in the journal Science, a team led Charles Lockwood of University College London theorized that dominant male “A. robustus” may have had large harems like modern gorillas do today. Based on the study of 35 fossilized A. robustus” remains, researchers found that adult males were considerably larger than adult females, a relationship usually associated with a dominate male and harem relationship in other animals. As it true with dominant males in other animal species male “A. robustus” kept on growing even after reaching adulthood while females stopped growing when they reached breeding age.

An “A. robustus” skull was discovered in a South African cave with four holes in it. At first it was thought the holes were the result of a blow from a weapon, but later it was discovered they matched up perfectly with the teeth of a leopard also found in the cave. It appears that after the leopard killed the hominin it bit into its head piercing the skull with its teeth. Scientists speculate the leopard then dragged the early human into a tree where it could keep the kill away from scavengers such as hyenas. The skull later dropped from the tree and rolled into the cave. [Source: Kenneth Weaver, National Geographic, November 1985 [┹]

Many of the remains found in Drimolen cave are of are of juveniles and infants. Many are believed to have been prey of leopards or saber-toothed tigers that dragged their prey to the cave and it them like leopards do today with their prey in trees.

Australopithecus boisei

Paranthropus boisei
"Australopithecus boisei” (Also known as “Paranthropus boisei” ) was first called Zinjanthropus boisei by its discoverer Dr. Louis Leakey but later was grouped with the Australopithecus genus. It is regarded as one of the first tool makers (See First Hominin Tools). Zinjanthropus means “East Africa Man.”

Geologic Age: 2.3 million to 1.4 million years. Lived at same as “Australopithecus robustus” and “Homo habilis”. (Time range includes specimens identified as Australopithecus aethiopicus). Size: Bigger than robustus. Males: 4 foot 6 inches, 108 pounds; females: 4 foot 1 inches, 75 pounds. Brain Size: About the same as robustus.

“Linkage to Modern Man: “ Robustus and boisei may be different subspecies of a single, variable species. Believed to be an evolutionary dead end. Discovery Sites: In 1959 in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania by Mary Leakey, housed at the National Museum of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. Remains have also been found in Omo in Ethiopia, Lake Turkana in Kenya, and Malema on Lake Malawi.

Skull Features: Molars and face even more massive than robustus, earned him the name "nutcracker man." Distinctive bony crest on the male skull anchored massive chewing muscles. The upper jaw and molars are the largest of any hominin species. Body Features: Powerful upper body.

Paranthropus (Robust Hominins)

Some scientists believe that “Australopithecus boisei” and “Australopithecus robustus” are distinctive enough from other early hominins to be grouped in their own separate genus “ Paranthropus” . Others say they belong in the Australopithecus genus. Paranthropus means "Beside Man” in Greek.

On the brains of the Australopithecines compared to those of Paranthropus Dean Falk, a researcher at Florida State University, told Newsweek, “Paranthropus had a teardrop shape, whereas africanus has a swooping down in the bottom where Paranthropus is sort of peaked. The structure suggest that africanus had a more developed brain for decision making and planning which Paranthropus didn’t have, explaining why its is believed to have led to a dead end.”

'Nutcracker Man' Mostly Ate Grass

In 2011, AP reported, “Nutcracker Man didn't eat nuts after all. After a half-century of referring to an ancient pre-human as "Nutcracker Man" (Paranthropus boisei) because of his large teeth and powerful jaw, scientists now conclude that he actually chewed grasses instead. “The study "reminds us that in paleontology, things are not always as they seem," commented Peter S. Ungar, chairman of anthropology at the University of Arkansas. The report, by Thure E. Cerling of the University of Utah and colleagues, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Source: Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press. May 3, 2011]

Cerling's team analyzed the carbon in the enamel of 24 teeth from 22 individuals who lived in East Africa between 1.4 million and 1.9 million years ago. One type of carbon is produced from tree leaves, nuts and fruit, another from grasses and grasslike plants called sedges. It turns out as Paranthropus boisei did not eat nuts but dined more heavily on grasses than any other human ancestor or human relative studied to date. Only an extinct species of grass-eating baboon ate more, they said. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Colorado.

"That was not at all what we were expecting," Cerling told AP. Scientists will need to rethink the ways our ancient relatives were using resources, he said. Added co-author Matt Sponheimer of the University of Colorado: "Frankly, we didn't expect to find the primate equivalent of a cow dangling from a remote twig of our family tree." A Paranthropus skull was discovered by Mary and Louis Leakey in 1959 at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, and helped put the Leakeys on the world stage. Their daughter-in-law, Maeve Leakey, is a co-author of the paper.

Cerling said much of the previous work on Nutcracker Man was based on the size, shape and wear of the teeth. His team analyzed bits of tooth removed with a drill and the results were completely different, Cerling said. "It stands to reason that other conclusions about other species also will require revisions," he said.Ungar, who was not part of the research team, suggested in 2007 the possibility that Nutcracker Man human ate grasses, based on tooth wear.

"The big, flat molars, heavily buttressed skull, and large, powerful chewing muscles of Paranthropus boisei scream 'nut cracker,' and that is exactly what this species has been called for more than half a century," he said via email. "But science demands that our interpretations be tested."With carbon analysis, the researchers take us "one step closer to understanding the diets of these fascinating hominins," Ungar said.

"This is a very important paper” because people have traditionally felt that the teeth of boisei were incapable of processing foods like grasses," added biology professor Mark Teaford of Johns Hopkins University. Cerling said it took some convincing to get the tooth samples for drilling from the National Museum of Kenya. "The sound of the drill may make a lot of paleontologists and museum staff cringe," co-author Kevin Uno, a doctoral student at Utah, said in a statement. But "it provides new information that we can't get at any other way."

‘Nutcracker Man’ Feasted On Tiger Nuts 2 Million Years Ago

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Paranthropus boisei
In 2014, the University of Oxford reported: “An Oxford University study has concluded that our ancient ancestors who lived in East Africa between 2.4 million-1.4 million years ago survived mainly on a diet of tiger nuts. Tiger nuts are edible grass bulbs still eaten in parts of the world today. The study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, also suggests that these early hominins may have sought additional nourishment from fruits and invertebrates, like worms and grasshoppers. [Source: University of Oxford , January 9, 2014 ==]

“Study author Dr Gabriele Macho examined the diet of Paranthropus boisei, nicknamed “Nutcracker Man” because of his big flat molar teeth and powerful jaws, through studying modern-day baboons in Kenya. Her findings help to explain a puzzle that has vexed archaeologists for 50 years. ==

“Scholars have debated why this early human relative had such strong jaws, indicating a diet of hard foods like nuts, yet their teeth seemed to be made for consuming soft foods. Damage to the tooth enamel also indicated they had come into contact with an abrasive substance. Previous research using stable isotope analyses suggests the diet of these homimins was largely composed of C4 plants like grasses and sedges. However, a debate has raged over whether such high-fibre foods could ever be of sufficiently high quality for a large-brained, medium-sized hominin. ==

“Dr Macho’s study finds that baboons today eat large quantities of C4 tiger nuts, and this food would have contained sufficiently high amounts of minerals, vitamins, and the fatty acids that would have been particularly important for the hominin brain. Her finding is grounded in existing data that details the diet of year-old baboons in Amboseli National Park in Kenya — a similar environment to that once inhabited by Paranthropus boisei. Dr Macho’s study is based on the assumption that baboons intuitively select food according to their needs. She concludes that the nutritional demands of a hominin would have been quite similar. ==

“Dr Macho modified the findings of the previous study on baboons by Stuart Altmann (1998) on how long it took the year-old baboons to dig up tiger nuts and feed on various C4 sources. She calculated the likely time taken by hominins, suggesting that it would be at least twice that of the yearling baboons once their superior manual dexterity was taken into account. Dr Macho also factored in the likely calorie intake that would be needed by a big-brained human relative. ==

“Tiger nuts, which are rich in starches, are highly abrasive in an unheated state. Dr Macho suggests that hominins’ teeth suffered abrasion and wear and tear due to these starches. The study finds that baboons’ teeth have similar marks giving clues about their pattern of consumption. In order to digest the tiger nuts and allow the enzymes in the saliva to break down the starches, the hominins would need to chew the tiger nuts for a long time. All this chewing put considerable strain on the jaws and teeth, which explains why “Nutcracker Man” had such a distinctive cranial anatomy. The Oxford study calculates a hominin could extract sufficient nutrients from a tiger nut- based diet, i.e. around 10,000 kilojoules or 2,000 calories a day — or 80 percent of their required daily calorie intake, in two and half to three hours. This fits comfortably within the foraging time of five to six hours per day typical for a large-bodied primate. ==

“Dr Macho, from the School of Archaeology at Oxford University, said: ‘I believe that the theory — that “Nutcracker Man” lived on large amounts of tiger nuts- helps settle the debate about what our early human ancestor ate. On the basis of recent isotope results, these hominins appear to have survived on a diet of C4 foods, which suggests grasses and sedges. Yet these are not high quality foods. What this research tells us is that hominins were selective about the part of the grass that they ate, choosing the grass bulbs at the base of the grass blade as the mainstay of their diet. ‘Tiger nuts, still sold in health food shops as well as being widely used for grinding down and baking in many countries, would be relatively easy to find. They also provided a good source of nourishment for a medium-sized hominin with a large brain. This is why these hominins were able to survive for around one million years because they could successfully forage — even through periods of climatic change.’” ==

Paradox of the Nutcracker Man

Erin Wayman wrote in smithsonian.com: “It’s not hard to understand why Paranthropus boisei is often called the Nutcracker Man. The hominin’s massive molars and enormous jaw make it seem pretty obvious that the species spent a lot of time chomping on hard nuts and seeds. Yet, the only direct evidence of P. boisei‘s meals—the chemistry and microscopic scratches of the teeth—hint that the species probably didn’t crack nuts all that much, instead preferring the taste of grass. A team of anthropologists that recently reviewed the possible diets of several early hominin species has highlighted this paradox of the Nutcracker Man and the difficulties in reconstructing the diets of our ancient kin. [Source: Erin Wayman, smithsonian.com, June 25, 2012 |~|]

“The first place anthropologists start when analyzing diet is the size and shape of the hominin’s teeth and jaws. Then they look for modern primates that have similar-looking dentition to see what they eat. For example, monkeys that eat a lot of leaves have molars with sharp cusps for shearing the tough foliage. On the other hand, monkeys that eat a lot of fruit have low, rounded molar cusps. If you found a hominin with either of those traits, you’d have a starting point for what the species ate. |~|

“But the morphology of a species’ teeth and jaws only shows what the hominin was capable of eating, not necessarily what it typically ate. In some cases, these physical traits might reflect the fallback foods that a species relied on when its preferred foods were unavailable during certain times of the year. Frederick Grine of Stony Brook University in New York and colleagues point this out in their recent review in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. |~|

“Grine and colleagues note that other lines of evidence directly record what an individual ate. One method is to look at the chemistry of a tooth’s dental enamel. As the enamel forms, atoms that an individual consumes become incorporated in the tooth. One of the most common elements to look for is carbon. Because different plants have unique ratios of carbon isotopes based on how they undergo photosynthesis, the carbon isotopes act as a stamp that records what the individual once ate. Researchers look for two main plant groups: C3 plants are trees, fruits and herbaceous plants that grow in environments with cooler seasons while C4 plants are the grasses and sedges that grow in tropical, warm regions. Finding the isotopic traces of C3 or C4 plants in teeth indicate a hominin ate those plants (or animals that ate those plants). |~|

“Another way to directly sample diet is to look at the characteristic microscopic markings on a tooth’s surface that form when chewing certain foods. Eating tough grasses and tubers, for example, will leave behind scratches; hard nuts and seeds create pits. One drawback of this method is that a tooth’s microwear is constantly reshaped whenever an individual eats. So, the markings found by anthropologists probably represent an individual’s “last meal,” whatever he or she was eating in the days before death. If a hominin had a diet that changed seasonally, part of the diet may not be reflected in the tooth’s surface wear. |~|

“With all of these methods in mind, Grine and his colleagues considered the probable diets of several early hominin species. A comparison of the closely related P. bosei and Paranthropus robustus emphasized the puzzle of the Nutcracker Man. |~|

“P. robustus lived in South Africa 1.2 million to 1.8 million years ago when the region was an open grassland. The species’ giant, thickly enameled molars and premolars (better known as bicuspids) and heavy jaw suggest P. robustus was chewing hard objects. The surface wear on the teeth also point to eating hard foods and resemble the wear patterns seen in modern mangabey monkeys, which often eat nuts. The teeth’s enamel chemistry further supports this conclusion: As much as 60 percent of the species’ diet consisted of C3 plants, which would include hard-shelled nuts and fruits (carbon chemistry can’t detect which part of a plant an animal ate). |~|

“P. boisei lived in the wooded and open grasslands of East Africa at about the same time P. robustus was alive. It had an even larger jaw and teeth, with the biggest molars of any hominin. These traits indicate the species was a powerful chewer. But the wear patterns on the molar lack the deep pits that characterize those of hard-object eaters. Instead, the patterns match those of gelada baboons, which eat a lot of tough grasses. A grass diet is further hinted at by the carbon isotopes in P. boisei teeth: As much as 77 percent of their diet consisted of C4 plants (grasses and sedges). |~|

“Grine and his colleagues suggest there may be a way to reconcile the paradox of P. boisei. Instead of being adaptations to cracking open hard objects, the species’ massive teeth and jaws may have been traits that helped P. boisei handle very abrasive foods, including any grit clinging to blades of grass. Or perhaps the species’ used its giant molars to grind its food in a unique way. These are ideas that anthropologists should further investigate. Although P. boisei‘s diet seems puzzling, one thing is clear: The apparent mismatch between the various lines of evidence demonstrate that anthropologists still have a lot to learn about what our ancestors ate. |~|

Australopithecus Sebida

Australopithecus sediba

In August 2008, two partial skeletons were unearthed in a cave at the Malapa site 40 kilometers from Johannesburg in South Africa and were dated to be between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years old. After careful study it was determined that the bones belonged to a new species — “Australopithecus sediba” . The skeletons were of a young male and adult female. They were upright-walking Australopithecus but had many physical traits of the earliest known homo species.

Lee Berger, of the University of Witwatersrnad in Johannesburg, who lead the team that found the fossils, called the discovery “unprecedented.” He told Reuters, “I am struck by the exceptional nature of something right on our doorstep...there are more hominin fossils than I have ever discovered in my career. When we found it, we imagined that we were looking at new species.”

Australopithecus sediba had long arms like an ape, short powerful hands, a very advanced pelvis and long legs capable of striding and perhaps running like a human. The female was 1.27 meters tall. The male was about the size but it is assumed it would grow bigger. The brain size of the young male was between 420 and 450 cubic centimeters, considerably smaller than a modern human brain, which is between 1,200 and 1,600 cubic centimeters. The remains of saber-toothed cats, brown hyenas, wild dog, antelopes and a horse were also found in the cave See Separate Article

Burtele Foot: From Yet Another Australopithecus Species?

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Australopithecus sediba endocast

In March 2012, scientists wrote in the journal Nature that they had found a 3.4 million-year-old fossilized foot in Ethiopia from a hominin found that was not Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy’s species. Catharine Paddock wrote in Medical News Today: “The fossil of the partial foot was found in 3.4-million-year-old rocks at Woranso-Mille in the Afar region of Ethiopia, where lead author Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the US, led the field research. “Bones of Australopithecus afarensis, have also been found in the area, which is known locally as Burtele.[Source: Catharine Paddock PhD, Medical News Today, March 29, 2012 ||*||]

“Haile-Selassie and colleagues say the partial foot fossil, which was discovered in February 2009, indicates that more than one species of early human ancestor with different means of locomotion, one walking upright, and the other climbing trees, existed between 3 and 4 million years ago: "The Burtele partial foot clearly shows that at 3.4 million years ago, Lucy's species, which walked upright on two legs, was not the only hominin species living in this region of Ethiopia," said Haile-Selassie in a statement. "Her species co-existed with close relatives who were more adept at climbing trees, like 'Ardi's' species, Ardipithecus ramidus, which lived 4.4 million years ago," he added. ||*||

“Lucy's big toe is aligned with the other four toes, for walking on two legs, like we do. But the Burtele foot apparently has an opposable big toe, like a thumb, allowing the foot to grasp branches. This is like the earlier Ardi, and similar to modern apes. The researchers write in their paper that the opposing big toe "not only indicates the presence of more than one hominin species at the beginning of the Late Pliocene of eastern Africa, but also indicates the persistence of a species with Ar. ramidus- like locomotor adaptation into the Late Pliocene". ||*||

“Haile-Selassie said other features of the Burtele foot show it did not belong to an ape, confirming that it is is truly a hominin, report Nature News, who also report that Daniel Lieberman, an anthropologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the study, agrees. Lieberman said the Burtele foot is "very much like the Ardipithecus foot, which I believe had many hominin features, so it's likely to be a hominin". ||*||

“Co-author and project co-leader Dr Bruce Latimer of Case Western Reserve University said they were shocked by the discovery. They had never seen bones like this before: "While the grasping big toe could move from side to side, there was no expansion on top of the joint that would allow for expanded range of movement required for pushing off the ground for upright walking. This individual would have likely had a somewhat awkward gait when on the ground," he explained. ||*||

“The researchers haven't been able to assign the Burtele foot to a species because there is no skull or dental elements to go with it. The foot was found under a layer of sandstone and the researchers used a radioactive dating method called argon-argon to determine its age. The argon-argon method uses the ratio of radioactive potassium-40 in a sample of rock to the amount of its decay product, argon-40, to work out the age of the rock, which in this case was found to be 3.46 million years. ||*||

“Co-author Dr Beverly Saylor, also of Case Western Reserve University, said nearby fossils of fish, crocodiles and turtles, as well as the physical and chemical properties of the sediments, indicate the surrounding area was once a "mosaic of river and delta channels adjacent to an open woodland of trees and bushes". "This fits with the fossil, which strongly indicates a hominin adapted to living in trees, at the same time 'Lucy' was living on land," she added. The finding adds weight to the idea that human evolution is not a simple linear progression from apes but a more complex affair.” ||*||

Kenyanthropus Platyops

Kenyanthropus Platyops

“Kenyanthropus Platyops” (meaning "flat-faced Kenya man") is a hominin dated to be 3.5 million to 3.2 million years old. Living in ancient woodland, it had a small brain, flat face, vertical cheek bones, and small teeth and most likely consumed fruits, berries and insects with its small teeth. By contrast Australopithecus afarensis ate tougher items likes roots and grasses with its larger teeth. Only a cranium, jaw fragments and teeth were found, making it impossible to determine sex, size and age. [Source: National Geographic, October 2001]

Meave Leakey considered to “ Kenyanthropus Platyops” to be different enough from Australopithecus to place it on a separate evolutionary branch from Australopithecus afarensis. “Kenyanthropus Platyops” however has some similarities with “ Homo Rudolfensis” , which lived in east Africa between 2.4 million and 1.8 million years ago. "It spoils the easy straight-line picture of the past," she said. "We have to have to rethink the evidence."

“ Kenyanthropus Platyops” was discovered in 1999 at a site called Lomekwi on the western shore the Lake Turkana area of Kenya by a Justus Erus, a member of Meave Leakey's Hominin Gang. The discovery was made at the end of the fossil hunting season after Leakey's team had moved to a new areas around Lake Turkana. Erus noticed a white object, about an inch wide, sticking out of the brown mudstone. He first thought the bone he saw belonged to a monkey but Leakey knew immediately that it belonged to a hominin. It took several days to excavate all the bones and about a year and half to assemble them in a Nairobi lab into a mostly complete skull.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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