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Homo Sapiens Older than Previously Thought, New Study

Homo Sapiens Older than Previously Thought, New Study

Saturday, 15 January, 2022 - 08:15
The Omo Kibish geological formation is seen in southwestern Ethiopia, near the location where Homo sapiens fossils were discovered in the late 1960s in this undated handout photograph obtained by Reuters on January 12, 2022. Celine Vidal/Handout via REUTERS

A recent study of a homo sapiens fossil in Ethiopia revealed that the find is the oldest-of-its-kind, dating to at least around 230,000 years, 30,000 older than previously thought, which means our human race is older as well.

The remnants of “Omo Kepish 1” were discovered in 1967, by the team of famous Kenyan paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, who died recently in the lower Omo Valley (southern Ethiopia), a prehistoric site were many human fossils were discovered.

Although badly damaged, the body bones and skull fragments showed surprisingly modern structure, making Omo 1 the oldest known fossil of Homo sapiens in East Africa, even the entire African continent, before being replaced by the discovery of Neanderthal remains in Morocco in 2017, which date back to 300,000 years.

First, the scientists didn’t manage to determine Omo 1’s age because of the lack of teeth, so they estimated it dates to around 130,000 years. Then, a study published in 2005 estimated the fossil is around 195,000-year-old, based on the analyses of the sediments surrounding it.

“There's been a lot of uncertainty around this date," Dr. Céline Vidal, the paper's lead author, told Agence France Press (AFP). The new study was published in the journal Nature on January 12.

Then, Vidal, a Cambridge volcanologist, visited the Omo Kibish sediment basin fed by the Kibish river, to conduct further excavations. The basin is located in the Great Rift Valley, which witnessed violent volcanic eruptions 30,000 to 60,000 years before our current age.

With time, the erupted ashes expanded over hundreds of kilometers and blended with the sediments left on the river, whose gradual level decrease unveiled a major geological history, and made Omo Kibish a “real library,” explained Céline Vidal.

The examination of these different layers allowed the scientists to estimate the age of the human remnants using the Argon–argon dating method which analyze gases in rocks.

In the early 21st century, scientists estimated the age of the volcanic ash found under the sediments hiding the discovered fossil at around 195,000 years, which indicates Omo 1 has the same age.

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