Human ancestors turned out to be older than thought

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Publication from Research News (@research_news)

The first Homo sapiens fossils from East Africa turned out to be about 30 thousand years older than previously thought.

The remains, known as Omo I, were found near the Omo River in Ethiopia in 1967. The study of the partially preserved skull and several other bones showed that the ancient hominid possessed the features of a modern man — a high spherical vault of the skull and a characteristic chin. Scientists assumed that it was about 200 thousand years old, but this dating was considered not entirely accurate.

Prehistoric bones were found in an area of high volcanic activity, so scientists tried to date volcanic ash in the layers from which the remains were extracted. However, radiometric methods worked inaccurately because the ash was too fine-grained.

In a new study, scientists have been trying for about 4 years to date all major volcanic eruptions in the Ethiopian Rift during the appearance of Homo sapiens in the late Pleistocene. They collected samples of pumice from volcanic deposits, crushed them and carried out geochemical analysis. So they discovered unique chemical “fingerprints” of the time of volcanic eruptions.

The analysis showed that the Shala volcano, in the ash layers from which the oldest remains of a reasonable man were found, erupted about 230 thousand years ago, which means that the bones of Omo I are the same age or even older. This makes them the oldest undisputed remains of Homo sapiens in Africa.

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