Our Beginnings

When I was taking paleoanthropology courses in college, desperately trying to pretend I could be a scientist, everybody thought I was nuts. Dinosaurs were where the sex was, dinosaurs and the Indiana Jones/Holy Grail type stuff that’s about archaeology the way Baywatch was about aquatic safety. Dead people? What could possibly be fun about that?

There was something irresistable to me about human beginnings about finding out how we came to be and literally picking up the pieces of our story from the ground. Lucy, the footprints … These are the closest things we have to witnesses to the oldest story of all. So I had to do a little fangirl squeal at this story:

An international team of scientists have discovered 4.1 million year old fossils in eastern Ethiopia that fill a missing gap in human evolution.

The teeth and bones belong to a primitive species of Australopithecus known as Au. anamensis, an ape-man creature that walked on two legs.

The Australopithecus genus is thought to be an ancestor of modern humans. Seven separate species have been named. Au. anamensis is the most primitive.

“This new discovery closes the gap between the fully blown Australopithecines and earlier forms we call Ardipithecus,” said Tim White, a leader of the team from the University of California, Berkeley.

“We now know where Australopithecus came from before 4 million years ago.”

Found and analyzed by scientists from the United States, Ethiopia, Japan and France, the fossils were unearthed in the Middle Awash area in the Afar desert of eastern Ethiopia.

The area, about 140 miles northeast of Addis Ababa, has the most continuous record of human evolution, according to the researchers.