Jan 17, 2022 I Jocelyne LeBlanc

East Africa’s Oldest Human Remains Date Back at Least 233,000 Years

The oldest human remains ever found in the eastern part of Africa are at least 233,000 years old – more than 30,000 years older than previous studies had indicated.

Partial Homo sapiens remains (these remains are referred to as Omo 1) that include part of a skull were discovered back in 1967 at the Kibish rock formation that is located along Ethiopia’s Omo River. New analysis has revealed that the individual is at least 36,000 years older than previously thought.

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge were able to calculate this latest date by analyzing volcanic ash left behind from an eruption that occurred approximately 230,000 years ago. The eruption left an ash layer over the sediment where the fossils were found. This meant that the fossils were older than the eruption – about 233,000 years old.

In a statement provided to IFLScience, Dr. Aurélien Mounier from the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, noted, “The new date estimate, de facto, makes it the oldest unchallenged Homo sapiens in Africa,” adding, “Unlike other Middle Pleistocene fossils which are thought to belong to the early stages of the Homo sapiens lineage, Omo I possesses unequivocal modern human characteristics, such as a tall and globular cranial vault and a chin.”

This also pushes back the timeline of when Homo sapiens first evolved throughout Africa to around 300,000 years ago. “Our forensic approach provides a new minimum age for Homo sapiens in eastern Africa, but the challenge still remains to provide a cap, a maximum age, for their emergence, which is widely believed to have taken place in this region,” explained Professor Christine Lane who is the head of the Cambridge Tephra Laboratory. “It’s possible that new finds and new studies may extend the age of our species even further back in time.”

Bones 570x428
(Not the remains mentioned in this article.)

More research needs to be conducted in order to narrow down a more precise date of the fossils by analyzing the layer to sediment underneath the bones that may have been from an even earlier volcanic eruption. “If successful, we might be able to bracket Omo 1 with a maximum age,” stated volcanologist Céline Vidal from the University of Cambridge. (An image of the reconstruction of the individual’s skull can be viewed here.)

The study was published in the journal Nature where it can be read in full.

Jocelyne LeBlanc
Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.

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