Face of mankind's oldest ancestor who roamed Earth 3.8 million years ago revealed

By Mirror | Thursday, Aug 29th 2019 at 15:47
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The face of mankind's oldest direct ancestor - who roamed the Earth 3.8 million years ago - has been unveiled by scientists.

It has been reconstructed from a remarkably preserved skull.

The ape-like early human, or hominid, was a member of Australopithecus anamensis - a species even older than one of humanity’s most famous ancestors, known as Lucy.

The almost complete skull, described in the journal Nature, was hailed by a British expert as an iconic relic of human evolution, revealing A. anamensis' features for the first time.

"It's good to finally be able to put a face to the name," said Dr Stephanie Melillo of the Max Plank Institute For Evolutionary Anthropology, who co-authored the report.

Named MRD, the skull belonged to an adult male. It was identified from its jaw and canine-like teeth.

The creature was dated from minerals in layers of volcanic rocks nearby. Its skull was kept intact by the sandy deposits of a delta where a river entered a lake.

The river likely originated in the highlands of the Ethiopian plateau. The lake developed lower down where rift activity caused the Earth surface to stretch and thin.

This created the lowlands of the Afar region.

Fossilised pollen grains and chemical remains of plant and algae in the lake and delta sediments provide clues about the ancient environmental conditions.

Specifically, they indicate the watershed of the lake was mostly dry but there were also forested areas on the shores of the delta or along the side the river that fed the delta and lake system.

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