Paleontologists digging at Olduvai Gorge in what is now Tanzania have discovered a bone from the pinkie finger of a hominin that dates back 2 million years. What’s even more exciting, the size of the bone indicates that it came from an unidentified giant that was nearly twice as big as Homo habilis, the tree-dwelling human ancestor who roamed the area at the same time.
The researchers belong to The Olduvai Paleonthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP) led by Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, professor of Prehistory at Complutense University in Spain. The 3.6 cm (1.5-inch) bone is part of a pinkie finger (proximal phalanx) of a left hand and its shape suggests to Dominguez-Rodrigo that the being was not only much larger but much more advanced than Homo habilis.
This bone belongs to somebody who’s not spending any time in the trees at all.
Could that be because the being is a giant? Homo habilis topped out at 3 feet in height. This finger bone is from a creature measuring 5 feet 9 inches – almost twice as tall. The shape of the bone indicates that this being no longer gripped branches and had dropped to the ground where it was grasping stones for tools. With the bone being 2 million years old, this would push the development of the modern human hand back 400,000 years.
Was this giant a singular fluke or one of a giant species of human ancestry? Dominguez-Rodrigo’s report in Nature Communications suggests he isn’t sure.
Our discovery not only shows that a creature’ – dubbed OH 86 – ‘with a modern-looking hand existed 1.85 million years ago, it also shows that OH 86 was bigger sized than any other prior and contemporary hominin.
While a giant in comparison to Homo habilis, the new being is close in size to modern humans. The team at TOPPP will continue to search for more bones and maybe they’ll be able to answer these questions: How did these hominins become giants? How did they double in size so quickly? Was there some sort of outside intervention? Why has our size remained the same for 2 million years? Can humans make that kind of size jump again? Should we?