Scientists found the fossil in 2013 in the Ledi-Geraru research area in the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia may represent the earliest ancient human fossil ever discovered — pushing back the known origins of humankind by 500,000 years. The remains, alongside a digital reconstruction of a damaged fossil from a key early-human species, point to an evolutionary explosion at the dawn of our genus, Homo.
In another paper, members of Villmoare’s team suggest that around 2.8 million years ago, climate change transformed forests in the Afar region into grasslands2. “There are two ways to handle that: one is to go extinct, the other is to make some sort of evolutionary adaptation,” says Villmoare.Homo sapiens‘ ancestors, he speculates, turned to hunting game, eventually developing larger brains and more agile bodies.
The Ledi-Geraru jawbone provides insight to developmental changes in the jaw and teeth in Homo only 200,000 years after the last known occurrence of Australopithecus afarensis – made famous by the 1974 discovery of “Lucy” in the nearby Ethiopian site of Hadar.