- Archaeologists have discovered a small human skull in Olorgesailie, Kenya, which is believed to be between 900,000 and 970,000 years old. The skull is probably of the prehistoric Homo erectus species, a direct ancestor to our own species. The small size of the skull however may indicate this is a new sub-species.
According to the first theories on the tiny skull found in Kenya, the assumed female Homo erectus sub-species may even have been a "failed" genetic experiment in the course of evolution - a development that had a short lifetime and could not compete with other evolutionary developments that ultimately led to the development of modern man.
- It is small and currently I would assume that it is from a woman, Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution said at a press conference in Nairobi today. Mr Potts participated in the archaeologist team that discovered the skull in Olorgesailie one year ago. The discovery has been kept a secret until now.
The archaeologists have established that the skull is of an adult person of the Homo erectus species - a type of pre-humans that was the dominant primate between 500,000 and 1.7 million years ago. The Olorgesailie skull is however the smallest ever found from this time era, thus suggesting it could be an unknown sub-species, according to reports in the renowned magazine 'Science'.
Homo erectus fossils have been found on every continent except the Americas and Australia. It is not verified where the robust species, that survived some 1.4 million years, originated, but it is believed that ancient forms of humans, including Neanderthals, later proved so competitive that our predecessor became extinct.
Fossils of Homo erectus have been found in Europe, China, Indonesia the Middle East and wide tracts of Africa. The volcanic parts of Kenya and Tanzania have however been among the densest archaeological fields for early humans. Here, a large number of Homo erectus have been found side by side with earlier Hominoids and early forms of Homo sapiens.
The new discovery is set to re-ignite the old debate among archaeologists to whether Homo erectus in fact is one species or should be understood as several distinct species. There are also theories to whether Homo erectus is a direct ancestor to our own species - a discussion some archaeologists say can only be closed by looking closer into the sub-species of the pre-human.
The newly discovered Homo erectus skull is to become property of the National Museum of Kenya, which already has a larger collection of prehistoric humans and their predecessors. It is not decided upon whether the discovery is to be exposed yet, but it is assumed that further research on the skull first is to be conducted.
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