New dating techniques push back the dawn of humanity some 60,000 years.
Feb. 17, 2005
It’s been well-established that humans first appeared in Africa—Ethiopia, to be specific—but when? It turns out that because of difficulties with dating technology, the emergence of humanity happened much earlier than anyone first thought. Two Ethiopian fossils, first discovered by the legendary Richard Leakey in 1967, were walking around 195,000 years ago and are hence, the oldest known examples of Homo sapiens. That’s a difference of 60,000 years from the results of earlier dating on the same skulls. The problem was that the earlier dating came from testing mollusc shells discovered near the fossils. They were dated at 130,000 years ago. Newer techniques and more accurate dating technology applied at the Australian National University and published in Nature have changed the date. The two fossils, named Omo I and Omo II for the river bed they were discovered in, also give further credence to the “out of Africa” theory: humanity first rose in Africa and then some 40,000 years ago, began to spread outward. Of course, some media will have to add the intelligent design hypothesis to the story.