Earliest Hominid Fossil Found in Kenya

ByABC News
January 9, 2001, 10:20 AM

N A I R O B I, Kenya, Dec. 4 -- French and Kenyan scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of mankinds earliest knownancestor that predate previous discoveries by more than 1.5million years, the team announced today.

They said the discovery of Millennium Man, as the creaturehas been nicknamed, could change the way scientists think aboutevolution and the origin of species.

The first remains were discovered in the Tugen hills ofKenyas Baringo district on Oct. 25 by a team from College deFrance in Paris and the Community Museums of Kenya.

Older by 1.5 Million Years

Since then, the scientists have unearthed distinct body partsbelonging to at least five individuals, both male and female.

Not only is this find older than any else previously known,it is also in a more advanced stage of evolution,palaeontologist Martin Pickford told a news conference.

It is at least 6 million years old, which means it isolder than the [previously oldest] remains found at Aramis inEthiopia, which were 4.5 million years old.

Lucy, the skeleton of Australopithicus afarensis found inEthiopia in 1974, is believed to have lived around 3.2 millionyears ago.

An almost perfectly fossilized left femur shows the mucholder Millennium Man already had strong back legs which enabledit to walk upright giving it hominid characteristics whichrelate it directly to man.

A thick right humerus bone from the upper arm suggests italso had tree-climbing skills, but probably not enough to hangfrom tree branches or swing limb to limb.

The length of the bones show the creature was about the sizeof a modern chimpanzee, according to Brigitte Senut, a teammember from the Museum of Natural History in Paris.

But it is the teeth and jaw structure which most clearlylink Millennium Man to the modern human.

It has small canines and full molars similar dentition tomodern man and suggesting a diet of mainly fruit and vegetableswith occasional opportunistic meat-eating.