Discovery of Oldest Hominid Skeleton Reported

Artist's illustration of the skelton of Ardipithecus ramidus.  Image Credit:  J.H. Matternes/Science/AAAS

Artist's illustration of the skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus. Image Credit: J.H. Matternes/Science/AAAS

Yesterday, the journal Science published a series of papers outlining the discovery of the oldest known hominid skeleton.  The skeleton is that of a small-brained, 110-pound female Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed Ardi.   She lived 4.4 million years ago in what is today Ethiopia.  She is over a million years older than the famous Lucy fossil, found in the same region 35 years ago.

The discovery of Ardi raises a number of interesting questions for scientists.  Traditional scientific views, influenced by Lucy, were that human began to walk upright once they left the forest for the savannah.  Ardi contradicts this view.  She  lived in a forested region and walked upright on the ground and on four legs while climbing trees.  Also, given Lucy’s skeleton, scientists hypothesized that the last common ancestor of humans and other great apes had resembled a chimpanzee.  Ardi lacks these chimp-like features.  For more information on this discovery, see National Geographic News.

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