Ethiopian Finds Earliest Human Ancestor
Addis Ababa, July 12, 2001 (WIC)- An international team has announced the discovery of
bones and teeth of the earliest creatures on our branch of the family tree. The fossils date to
between 5.2 and 5.8 million years ago.
According to a statement issued by the team, they were found and described by Yohannes
Haile-Selassie, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Berkeley.
The fossils were found along the western margin of the Afar Rift, in Ethiopia's Middle Awash
study area. The Middle Awash lies within the Afar depression, about 230km northeast of Addis
Ababa, and about 50 miles 75 km south of Hadar where the 3.2 million-year-old "Lucy" was
found nearly thirty years ago.
The Middle Awash study area is already famous for other major discoveries such as the 4.4
million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus, before this, the oldest known hominid. In 1999 the
same team announced its discovery of the 2.5 myr Australopithecus garhi from the same
The statement further said the Middle Awash study has been conducted since 1981 under the
joint direction of Professors Desmond Clark and Tim White of U.C. Berkeley, DR. Giday Wolde
Gabriel of Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as Drs. Berhane Asfaw and Yonas Beyene
of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Because these and all other hominids older than 4.4 million years have been found in similar
wooded habitats in Ethiopia and Kenya, the researchers suggest that all of the known earliest
hominids derive from relatively wet and wooded environments.
Meanwhile, the Authority for the conservation and research of Heritages said that it had no
knowledge of the reported discovery.
In a statement it distributed to the media last Wednesday, the Authority said the licence of
the Middle Awash Research Team, as the team is refered to, has been cancelled and the
Authority has no relationship with it.