News FocusArdipithecus ramidus

The View From Afar

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Science  02 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5949, pp. 41-43
DOI: 10.1126/science.326_41

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Summary

The Middle Awash project, which includes 70 scientists from 18 nations, is best known for its discovery of the 4.4-million-year-old partial skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus at Aramis, about 34 kilometers north of here. That skeleton is now dramatically revising ideas of how upright walking evolved and how our earliest ancestors differed from chimpanzees. But Aramis is just one of 300 localities in the Middle Awash, which is the only place in the world to yield fossils that span the entire saga of hominid evolution. At last count, this team had gathered 19,000 vertebrate fossils over the past 19 years. These include about 300 specimens from seven species of hominins, from some of the first members of the human family, such as 5.8-million-year-old Ar. ramidus kadabba, to the earliest members of our own species, Homo sapiens, which lived here about 160,000 years ago.