research team says this million-year-old skull, found in Ethiopia, helps
prove that Homo erectus originated in Africa and persisted there for
hundreds of thousands of years.
AP March 20, 2002
A million-year-old skull found in Ethiopia confirms the theory
that modern humans evolved from a single pre-human species that developed
in Africa and migrated throughout much of the world, scientists say.
believe that Homo erectus the species that is said to bear the
first recognizable human characteristics emerged nearly 2 million
years ago in Africa and spread across several continents to serve as
an ancestor to modern humans, or Homo sapiens.
But some scientists maintain that another prehuman species known as
Homo ergaster emerged in Africa about the same time, migrated around
the world and evolved into Homo erectus. Then, according to this theory,
Homo erectus traveled to Africa.
NO SECOND SPECIES?
Researchers from the United States and Ethiopia said this latest skull
appears to be Homo erectus. They said the find helps prove that Homo
erectus originated in Africa and persisted there for hundreds of thousands
of years, while some of its numbers migrated around the world.
In fact, they said the differences discovered around the world between
Homo erectus and specimens considered to be Homo ergaster primarily
variations in facial and skull bones are too minor to represent
different species and that Homo ergaster did not exist as a separate
The study was led by University of California at Berkeley anthropologist
Tim White and was published in Thursdays issue of the journal
"Nature." Theres been a recent tendency
to give a different name to each of the fossils that comes out of the
ground, and that has led to what we think is a very misleading portrayal
of the biology of human evolution, said White, who co-directs
the Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies. But
when you find a fossil like this one so similar to Asian and European
ones, it indicates the same species.
Unlike earlier prehuman species with apelike traits, Homo erectus had
a large brain and walked upright. It made stone tools and ate meat.
Within several thousand years, it had moved into the Middle East, Europe
and southern Asia, though the precise pattern remains uncertain. It
became extinct 400,000 years ago. The Neanderthals in Europe probably
were a later branch of Homo erectus that became extinct, White said,
but may have overlapped with early Homo sapiens.
called the Ethiopian skull an important find but said it does not resolve
the debate. This whole species question is all about what you
accept as a sharp enough distinction to tell you that it is a separate
species, said Susan Anton, a Rutgers University anthropologist.
This particular skull is not going to solve that problem.
Copyright: The Associated Press
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