According to a new research, an Australian-led research team recently unearthed what is now known as the earliest known skull of a Homo erectus, dating to at least 2 million years old. Per the team, this shows that the ancient hominid species existed 200,000 years earlier than we initially thought.
New Excavation Find
Per Prof. Andy Herries, who led the research team, the new fossil find was pieced together from more or less 150 fragments that were uncovered at the Drimolen Main Quarry, located about 40 km north of Johannesburg in South Africa. Furthermore, the skull was of a child, who was likely between two and three years old when it died.
Working as a geochronologist and head of archaeology at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, Herries said that he can’t stress enough “how rare it is” to find enough fragments that’s enough to reconstruct an intact brain case since the skulls of young children are so thin and weak.
“At this age they are so susceptible to damage. It’s so exciting, because our fascination with human evolution is because it’s the story of us, and when we go back this far with a discovery like this, it’s the story of every person living on the planet. The group this two or three-year-old was a part of could have been the origin of everyone alive today,” he said.
According to Herries, there’s a lot of confusion and disagreement in the field of human evolution and archaeology. However, if there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that the Homo erectus is significant because “this is the beginning of us, this is the beginning of our genus.”
Per Herries, the initial fragments were discovered by one of his PhD students back in 2015 during his first excavation.
“I was working a bit further up the hill and you know when someone has found something because a big shout goes up the hill, people come up to you with wide eyes, some of my colleagues start dancing,” Herries said.
The findings of the study were published Friday in the international journal Science.