Scientists have unearthed a jawbone in Ethiopia believed to be 2.8 million years old and the oldest human fossil in existence. The unearthed fossil could be the missing link between humans and their ape-like ancestor ‘Lucy’ that lived millions of years ago. The groundbreaking discovery has been published by the Journal Science.
The jaw fragment had five teeth and was discovered by Chalachew Seyoum, a Graduate student at Arizona State. It is however not yet clear whether the fossil came from early known species of Homo or whether it is a discovery altogether. The fossil is a left lower jaw of an adult as it combines features like primitive chin shape with some traits only found in Homo fossils like slimmer teeth than the molars of Lucy’s ilk.
The findings bolsters earlier suggestions that Homo arose from Lucy species according to Susan Anton of New York University. The fossil could however only reveal a limited amount of information as no head tools and limb bones have been discovered. It is therefore not possible to know if it walked any different from Australopithecus afarensis, which is Lucy’s species. Field works continue in the area in search of other fossils.
The jaw bone was discovered in 2013 at a site close to where Lucy was unearthed and provides a rare glimpse of how early members of the human race looked like. Scientists from Arizona State University have worked for many years at the site in northeast Ethiopia as they seek to understand the period when the Homo genus group concurred the area.
The discovery essentially pushes the human-like back by 400,000, which scientists call Homo. Homo sapiens is the only surviving member of this hierarchy group of evolution. Another research team had reported in a paper released by Journal Nature that the lower face of Homo habilis was surprisingly primitive.