New Homo Fossil Has the Genus Emerging Half a Million Years Early
A lower jaw found in Africa could mean that the Homo genus — the one that we ourselves belong to — evolved some 400,000 years earlier than previously assumed. The 2.8 million-year-old fossil is from a crucial time in the evolution of our ancestors, but one that has yielded scant few skeletal remains to researchers eager to fill the gaps of our knowledge.
Until now, the oldest member of the Homo genus was thought to be Homo habilis (“handy man”) who lived some 2.3 million years ago. But the new fossil, described in a pair of papers published Wednesday in Science, is significantly older, and seems to link more recent members of the genus to the primates that preceded them.
“One of the most important time intervals for understanding the emergence of our evolutionary lineage, Homo, is the period between 3 and 2 million years,” William Kimbel, author of one of the studies and director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, said during a news teleconference on Wednesday. “Ironically, it is one of the least well known time periods in the human fossil record.”