A 3.8-Million-Year-Old Skull Puts a New Face on a Little-Known Human Ancestor

A 3.8-Million-Year-Old Skull Puts a New Face on a Little-Known Human Ancestor

Spotting the intact Australopithecus skull in the Ethiopian dirt caused paleoanthropologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie to literally jump for joy. “It was something that I’ve never seen before, and I’ve seen a lot of cranial fossils,” he says.

The chance discovery by Haile-Selassie and an Ethiopian shepherd has created a captivating portrait of 3.8-million-year-old face, providing an unprecedented look at a hominin species from a key stage of human evolution. Experts say the extraordinary fossil can help redefine the branches of humans’ evolutionary tree during a time when our ancestors had just evolved efficient ways to walk upright.

“This cranium looks set to become another celebrated icon of human evolution,” Fred Spoor, a human evolution researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, writes in a News & Views article that accompanied Haile-Selassie and colleagues’ new study in the journal Nature.

Who Were the Mysterious Neolithic People That Enabled the Rise of Ancient Egypt?

Karnak Ancient Egypt.jpg

Who Were the Mysterious Neolithic People That Enabled the Rise of Ancient Egypt?

To many, ancient Egypt is synonymous with the pharaohs and pyramids of the Dynastic period starting about 3,100BC. Yet long before that, about 9,300-4,000BC, enigmatic Neolithic peoples flourished. Indeed, it was the lifestyles and cultural innovations of these peoples that provided the very foundation for the advanced civilisations to come.

But who were they? As it turns out, they haven’t actually been studied much, at least relative to their successors. But our excavations of six burial sites – with some of the analyses recently published – have now provided important insights into their mysterious ways of life.

One reason why we know so little about Neolithic Egypt is that the sites are often inaccessible, lying beneath the Nile’s former flood plain or in outlying deserts.

Richard Leakey Plans Libeskind-Designed 'Cathedra' Honoring Human Evolution In Lake Turkana

Richard Leakey Plans Libeskind-Designed 'Cathedra' Honoring Human Evolution In Lake Turkana

Renowned Kenyan paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey has commissioned a new museum in the desert near Lake Turkana. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, 'the cathedra' will be constructed at 400 miles north of Kenya's capital in Nairobi,  near the border with Ethiopia. 

It's in this region that the Leakey family and their decades old teams have uncovered many of the best-preserved fossils of humanity's ancient ancestors, some dated to 4 million years ago.

Lake Turkana is home to all the inspirations behind Anne of Carversville's Jewelry & Gift Collection, including Ethiopia's Omo Valley people, who live at the northern tip of the lake. It's the world's largest permanent desert lake and by volume the world's fourth-largest salt lake. 

We have many connections to LakeTurkana and Africa's Rift Valley both psychically and in our commitment to elephant conservation and the use of woolly mammoth bones in our jewelry. It's believed that woolly mammoths migrated out of the Rift Valley towards cooler climates and reliable water sources. 

Richard Leakey, the 72-year-old Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) chairman took Polish-American designer Daniel Libeskind to Lake Turkana to explore the project, now that financing has been secured for the design phase of the project. "Can we do something here that will absolutely stand-alone and wow?" Leakey asked the master planner of New York's post-September 11 World Trade Center redevelopment.

His vision is for a museum that is a "very creative" experience and not a fancy house for fossils. A museum pedigree is reason for eliminating people, not recruiting them for the project. The Kenyan powerhouse wants people from Silicon Valley or creative advertising professionals. "Why don't we have a room you come in to wearing a 3D headset and sit quietly in the middle of a band of Homo erectus moving all around you? That's much more interesting than a skeleton of Turkana Boy behind glass."

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