One of the oldest known Homo sapiens fossils may be more than 35,000 years older than previously thought, according to a study Wednesday that used volcanic ash up to the date of discovery.
Kibish Omo I, first discovered in Ethiopia in 1967, contained only bone and skull fragments that were difficult to date directly, and experts have long remained divided over their ages.
Geologists in 2005 analyzed the layer of rock just below the find and determined the age of Omo to be at least 195,000 years old.
This made the Homo sapiens fossil at least as old – and the oldest ever discovered at the time.
“But there is still a great deal of uncertainty,” said Céline Vidal, lead author of the study published in a leading scientific journal. temper nature, to AFP.
Getting a more accurate date would mean analyzing the thick layer of ash deposited on top of the fossils, said Vidal, a volcanologist at the University of Cambridge.
“At the time it was almost impossible because the ash was so fine, almost like flour,” she said.
But thanks to the most accurate methods available today, Vidal’s team was able to connect this layer of ash to a large eruption of a volcano called Chala.
According to the study, the ash revealed the layer where Omo I was found to be 233,000 years old, with a margin of error of 22,000 years.
“This is a huge leap in time,” said study co-author and paleoanthropologist Aurelien Meunier.
He added that the new minimum age for Omo I is more consistent with the latest theories of human evolution.
It also brings it closer to the age given for what is today the oldest remains of Homo sapiens, discovered in Morocco in 2017 and dating back 300,000 years.
The skulls and teeth discovered at Jebel Irhud have torpedoed the ancient theory that we emerged from the “cradle of humankind” in East Africa.
But for Mounir, the physical characteristics of the Moroccan fossils are a less convincing ancestor of today’s humans than Omo I.
The Jebel Irhud fossils are described as having a modern face but a brain condition that, despite its large size, has an ancient appearance.
“Omo I is the only fossil that has all the morphological characteristics of modern humans,” Munir said.
The oldest human remains in East Africa date back more than 230,000 years
Celine Vidal, the age of the oldest known Homo sapiens from East Africa, temper nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04275-8. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04275-8
© 2022 AFP
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