Thursday, 4 March 2004
Ethiopian woman: could archaeologists be about to unearth her
early ancestors? (Image: U.S. Dept of Treasury)
Archaeologists studying human origins in eastern Ethiopia said a wealth of new finds meant they could hope to discover even older and more complete specimens than the famous fossil "Lucy".
The scientists excavating fossils in Ethiopia's eastern region of Somali for the past two years said they had unearthed 1000 specimens including stone tools, fauna remains and elephant tusks.
They also uncovered 400 fauna and primate remains in Galile, a village 360 kilometres east of the capital Addis Ababa.
"Our goals for the future are to find more complete hominid specimens probably from an older time frame than that of Lucy," said Professor Gerhard Weber of the University of Vienna, Austria.
Lucy is Ethiopia's world-acclaimed archaeological find, dug up in 1974 in an almost complete hominid skeleton estimated at least 3.2 million years old.
Hominids are the family of primates of which humans, homo sapiens, are the only surviving species.
"Galile is an important opportunity in Ethiopia as well as within the East African Rift to study human origin," Weber said.
Weber heads the international team composed of researchers from the U.S, Germany and Ethiopia.
He described Galile as an area with high potential to find hominid remains in a more complete and preserved status.
"These discoveries make the knowledge of human evolution to be better understood," Hasen Said, an Ethiopian archaeologist and associate member of the international team, said.
Three hominid teeth, one believed to be nearly four million years old, were also discovered in Galile, the scientists said.
Lucy's remains were found in Hadar in the Afar regional state, where 20 years later scientists dug up the remains of a chimpanzee-sized ape, estimated at 4.4 million years old about 75 kilometres east of Hadar.
Last year, remains of a 160,000 year-old hominid were also discovered
by Ethiopian and American scientists at Herto village in Afar region,
230 kilometres northeast of Addis Ababa.