This has been an interesting week for science. Not only have we been turning our gaze toward celestial bodies like Ganymede and Enceladon in our search for life elsewhere, a new discovery is telling us more about ourselves, humanity, and our shared history.
Scientists have come closer to pinpointing the dawn of humankind in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia. Scientists are saying that a newly discovered jawbone could “rewrite the history of human evolution.” It might sound grandiose, but it’s a huge discovery.
There’s always a great deal of hype around new discoveries relating to human origins, but this may be one of the biggest finds in recent history. In a study published by Brian Villmoare and his colleagues, the origins of Homo can be pushed back another half million years to 2.8 million years ago due to the discovery of a jar bone at Ledi-Geraru in the Rift Valley back in January 2013.
The fossil is unique in that it’s complete and it’s features are very much modern. Fine details of tooth crowns and the pattern of wear on the teeth hint at features that were seen much later on in this evolutionary line, and the discovery shifts the debate on this matter significantly.
Humanity is now getting closer to being 3 million years old, which is a lot older than current scientific models state. This discovery also means that popular models of climate change that are commonly used as a reason for the beginning of Homo evolution can be discarded. This jaw is too old to be explained by global cooling and a shift in vegetation in Africa.
It’s an incredible time when we can both learn new things about life here on Earth, as well as ourselves, and also get closer to solving the mystery of life on other moons and planets. It’s an exciting time for science.
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