Archaeologists were stunned after a fossil discovered in 1967 turned out to be the oldest known human remains.
However, an international team of experts led by researchers from the University of Cambridge have determined that the fossil is much older than previously thought.
dr Céline Vidal, the study’s lead author, and her colleagues have attempted to date all major volcanic eruptions in the Ethiopian Rift Valley to around the time of Homo sapiens formation – a period known as the late-middle Pleistocene – over a four-year period. year project.
The team collected samples of pumice from the volcanic deposits and ground them to submillimeter sizes.
By dating the chemical “fingerprints” of the layers of volcanic ash that lay beneath and above the fossil, experts were able to calculate that the fossil could be about 30,000 years earlier than previous estimates of early human life.
The discovery is of vital importance to the archaeological community, as these remains prove that modern humans roamed the earth well before the previously estimated 200,000 years.
“With these methods, the generally accepted age of the Omo fossils is under 200,000 years, but there have been large uncertainties regarding this date,” said Dr. Vidal.
“Each eruption has its own fingerprint – its own evolutionary history beneath the surface, determined by the path that the magma followed.
“Once you’ve crushed the rock, you free up the minerals it contains and can date them and identify the chemical signature of the volcanic glass that holds the minerals together.”
Study co-author Professor Asfawossen Asrat of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia said: “Our closer look at the stratigraphy of the Omo-Kibish Formation, particularly the ash layers, allowed us to estimate the age of the oldest Homo sapiens in the region to at least 230,000 years.”
Another co-author, Dr. Aurélien Mounier, from France’s Musée de l’Homme, added: “Unlike other Middle Pleistocene fossils thought to belong to the early stages of the Homo sapiens lineage, Omo I possesses distinct modern human characteristics, such as tall and spherical cranial vault and a chin.
“The new date estimate makes him the de facto oldest undisputed Homo sapiens in Africa.”
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