Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Find Shows Early Humans Settled East of Great Rift

By AKIYOSHI ABE/ Staff Writer
The Asahi Shimbun
April 12, 2016 at 11:30 JST

The first hominid fossils found east of Great Rift Valley in Africa have provided solid evidence that early humans settled in a wider range than previously thought, researchers said.

The international team, including researchers from Japan and Kenya, said March 24 they confirmed that the fossils dating back 3.5 million years belonged to Australopithecus afarensis.

Masato Nakatsukasa, professor of paleoanthropology at Kyoto University, and other group members excavated an arm bone from an adult male and fossilized teeth from two babies in 2012 from a stratum in a suburb of Nairobi, about 10 kilometers from the eastern cliff of the Great Rift Valley.

The Great Rift Valley is a 6,000-kilometer fracture in the Earth’s crust running north to south in eastern Africa.

Hominids are early humans who separated from a common ancestor with the chimpanzees and lived in Africa from 6 million to 1 million years ago.

Hominid fossils had previously been discovered in South Africa and central parts of Africa. But in eastern Africa, such fossils had been only found inside the Great Rift Valley, which is several tens of kilometers wide.

Near the 2012 find, the researchers also found animal fossils of Hippopotamidae and Bovidae.

The researchers assume that the location of the hominoid fossils had been an environment with fewer trees than at the bottom of the Rift Valley. That suggests hominids had a high ability to adapt to different environments, they said.

Their findings were published in the online edition of the Journal of Human Evolution.

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