Miscellaneous

Five Million-year-old human fossil found in East

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PANA)-An international anthropologicalteam recently announced the discovery of yet another hominoids fossil in the Ethiopian Rift Valley that dates back to five million years, making it the earliest trace of an ancestry of homo sapiens. The discovery was made in the ''Alda'' locality of the Middle Awash valley within the Ethiopian Rift Valley in the central northeastern partof the country, the government press reported Jan. 10. The announcement was made by a 13-member international team of paleontologists headed by Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley in theUnited States.

Mr. White spoke along with Dr. Berhane Asfaw of the Ethiopian National Museum in Addis Ababa at a gathering of scientists and invited guests at the museum, where the replica of ''Lucy'' and other fossils and stone tools discovered earlier at the same area are conserved. Mr. White and Dr. Berhane stated that the final ''outcome'' of the latest discovery will be published within three months.

''This entails further investigation of the fossil remains, which we have initially placed as being some five million years old,'' Dr. Berhanesaid. Mr. White said the discovery was made in 1998 and his team decided towait for nearly a year to ''make sure all the facts are in.'' He added that there is still need for further scientific verifications. Dr. Berhane was of the view that the latest discovery at ''Alda'' clearlyindicated that Africa ''still remains the true home of homo sapiens.'' The area in the middle of Awash Valley straddles the Ethiopian RiftValley in the central northeastern part of the country. It had previouslyyielded a wealth of ancient fossils. These include the 3.5 million-year old ''Lucy,'' unearthed in 1974 and believed to be the oldest known hominoid directly related to homo sapiens.

In subsequent years, ''Artiputhicus Ramides'' was found along the same dry riverbed beneath shrubs in a place called ''Ramides.'' This fossil was later said to be 4.4 million years old. Mr. White described the discovery at a riverbed at Alda as ''very extraordinary.'' He said he had been engaged with the 13-member international team in the same environs digging for fossil and researching stone implements during the last 18 years. Dr. Berhane said the Middle Awash palaentological team had also discovereda skull, believed to be that of a hominoid estimated to be 2.5 millionyears to three million years old.

''This we hope will lead to solving a long-standing riddle among ourresearch team about stone tools that were discovered in the 1980s,'' hestated. Dr. Berhane was referring to stone tools found, along with the last discovery of the oldest hominoids fossil ''Artipihecus Ramides,'' thatwere said to be 4.4 million years old. Dr. Berhane has been working on the Middle Awash Valley research field since 1974. He was a student-researcher with the University of California palaeon-tological team that discovered ''Lucy.'' He had also been credited with co-discovering the Ramides fossil.Mr. White had been in the same field as team leader since 1981. He had also been engaged as an ''integrated biologist'' in palaeon-tological studies in Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi.


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