Excavations at Tanzania’s famed Olduvai Gorge have uncovered the oldest known fossil hand bone resembling those of people today. The bone from a hominid’s left pinkie finger dates to at least 1.84 million years ago and looks more like corresponding bones of modern humans than like finger fossils of previously discovered Olduvai hominids, say paleoanthropologist Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo of Complutense University in Madrid and his colleagues.
This ancient hominid’s entire hand probably looked humanlike, the researchers propose August 18 in Nature Communications. An Olduvai hominid with humanlike hands would have been capable of making stone tools, they say.
The new finger fossil is more humanlike than comparably ancient Olduvai hand fossils from Homo habilis, or handy man, and Paranthropus boisei, or Nutcracker Man, the scientists find.
H. habilis and P. boisei lived at Olduvai alongside a hominid species represented by the new finger fossil, Domínguez-Rodrigo’s team argues. But using just one or a few fossils to define a new hominid species is controversial (SN: 6/27/15, p. 7).