Ape Man

Ape Man


In life, this creature probably resembled a chimpanzee more than anything. Its habitat consisted of grasslands and forest with a sharp eye for pythons, crocodiles and saber-toothed cat predators. This animal probably shared the forest with apes and monkeys and, others like them, spending most of the time up in the trees. It may have walked upright, which apes rarely do for very long at a stretch. But at a casual glance, it would have seemed to our eyes like a chimp.

In death, however, this creature sent a shock wave through the world of science. After eight years of searching the hot desert of central Africa, a team of researchers has uncovered one of the most sensational fossils: the well-preserved skull of a chimpanzee size animal that doesn't fit any known species. According to paleontologist there is no way it could have been an ape. It was almost certainly a hominid - a member of a subdivision of the primate family whose only living representative is modern man. And it has left scientists gasping with astonishment for several reasons.

To start with, it is nearly 7 million years old - a million years more ancient than the previous record holder. This new species is as much older than the famous Lucy as Lucy is older than we are. It almost certainly dates from very near that crucial moment in prehistory when hominids began to tread an evolutionary path that diverged from that of chimps, our closest living relatives. Even more surprising, this ancient hominid was not discovered anywhere near the Great Rift Valley of East Africa, where all the record of the past three decades have been found. Instead, it turned up in the region of Chad, more than 1,500 miles to the west. In conclusion our fossil record forces many of us to reconsider what was speculated about the human origin.

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