Oldest Humans Just Got
Older - By 35,000 Years

By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) - The oldest humans just got older -- by 35,000 years.
Two Homo sapiens skulls, originally dated as 130,000 years old when they were unearthed in Kibish, Ethiopia in 1967, then later put back to 160,000, have now been declared 195,000 years old based on geological evidence.
"It pushes back the beginning of the anatomically modern humans," said geologist Frank Brown, Dean of the University of Utah's College of Mines and Earth Sciences and co-author of a new study into the skulls known as Omo I and Omo II.
The results of a study with New York's Stony Brook University and the Australian National University were published in the science journal Nature.
After looking at the volcanic ash where the skulls were found along the Omo river, the researchers not only dated the remains as the same age but pushed back the date of their existence, making them by far the oldest humans.
"On this basis we suggest that hominid fossils Omo I and Omo II are relatively securely dated to 195 +/- 5 (thousand) years old ... making Omo I and Omo II the oldest anatomically modern human fossils yet recovered," the study concluded.
The new dating firmly underpins the "out of Africa" theory of the origin of modern humans.
Brown said the redating was important culturally because it pushed back the known dawn of mankind, the record of which in most cases only starts 50,000 years ago.
"Which would mean 150,000 years of Homo sapiens without cultural stuff such as evidence of eating fish, of harpoons, anything to do with music, needles, even tools," he said.
"This stuff all comes in very late except for stone knife blades, which appeared between 50,000 and 200,000 years ago, depending on whom you believe," he added in a commentary.
The skulls were first discovered just 200 meters apart on the shores of what was formerly a lake by a team led by renowned fossil hunter and wildlife expert Richard Leakey.
They bear cut marks made by stone tools which have been taken as evidence of prehistoric mortuary practices.
Ever since the discovery of the fossil skulls, scientists have not only been locked in debate over the dating but also of the physical types because Omo I has more modern features than Omo II.
The new dating suggests that modern man and his older precursor existed side by side.
"It dates the fossil record almost exactly concordant with the dates suggested by genetic studies for the origin of our species," said Stony Brook anthropologist John Fleagle.
"Second, it places the first appearance of modern Homo sapiens in Africa many more thousands of years before our species appears on any other continent. It lengthens the gap," he added.
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