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African Legacy: Fossils plug gap in human origins

8:55am, June 11, 2003

Three partial skulls excavated in eastern Africa, dating to between 154,000 and 160,000 years ago, represent the oldest known fossils of modern people, according to the ancient skulls' discoverers.

The new finds of Homo sapiens fossils, unearthed near an Ethiopian village called Herto, fill a major gap in the record of our direct ancestors. Modern H. sapiens fossils previously found in Africa and Israel date to about 100,000 years ago. A skull excavated in Ethiopia of a not-yet-modern, so-called archaic H. sapiens is roughly 500,000 years old.

The Herto fossils show that H. sapiens evolved in Africa independently of European Neandertals, says project director Tim D. White, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. The finds thus bolster the out-of-Africa theory of human evolution (SN: 5/17/03, p. 307: Stone

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