Friday 31 January 1997

A 2.33 millioan-year-old human jaw was discovered late last year on a barren slope at Hadar in northern Ethiopia. An international team of American, Ethiopian and Israeli scientists which found the new maxilla, announced that it is possibly the "oldest securely dated Homo". But the team said that more fossils are needed to state whether the specimen is H habilis, or any other species of Homo. The jaw gives anthropologists some hard evidence that the genus indeed thrived on the planes of Africa.

To learn more about the species represented by the jaw, this fall the experts plan to return to Hadar for more fossils. They are enthusiastic about pushing origins of the modern human species closer to significant environmental shifts -- the onset of the ice age -- about 2.5 million years ago in Europe and Northern America that affected Africa's climate as well. The report by the group has been published in the December 1996 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

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