Fossil hunters in Ethiopia in 2006 unearthed an ancient
skull which they said could be a 'missing link' between Homo ergaster
and modern man. In other words, it would have been an example of Homo
The cranium was found in two pieces and was believed by
its discoverers to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old. The project's
director was Dr Sileshi Semaw, an Ethiopian research scientist at the Stone
Age Institute at Indiana University in the USA. He said that the fossilised
specimen came from 'a very significant time' in human evolutionary
It was found at Gawis in Ethiopia's north-eastern Afar
region. Stone tools and fossilised animals including two types of pigs,
zebras, elephants, antelopes, cats, and rodents were also found at
the site. As Dr Semaw told a news conference in Addis Ababa, the skull
appeared to be intermediate between the earlier Homo [ergaster]
and the later Homo sapiens.
Wealth of information
The palaeoanthropologist stated that most fossil hominids
were found in pieces, but the near-complete skull provided a wealth of
information. It opened a window into an intriguing and important period
in the development of modern humans.
Little is known about the period during which African
Homo [ergaster] evolved into our own species Homo
sapiens [via Homo heidelbergensis]. The fossil record from
Africa for this period is sparse and most of the specimens are poorly
The face and cranium of this particular fossil were
recognisably different from those of modern humans, but the specimen
bears unmistakable anatomical evidence that it belongs to the modern
human ancestral line.
Scientists conducting surveys in the Gawis River drainage
basin found the skull in a small gully. Over the last fifty years, Ethiopia
has been a key site for archaeologists hunting for fossil human ancestors.
Gawis is situated near Hadar, where palaeoanthropologist
Donald Johanson found the 3.2-million-year-old remains of 'Lucy', the
partial skeleton of a hominid belonging to the species Australopithecus
afarensis, in 1974.
This partial skullcap dated to 300,000 years ago is one of an
extremely small number of early human fossils found on the
Indian sub-continent - it may be heidelbergensis, which
would make it the most easterly example of the species to date