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Human evolution
Redating the earliest humans

In 1967, anthropologist Richard Leakey and a team of fossil hunters found the skulls and other remains of two humans, which they dated to 130,000 years ago and classified as Homo sapiens, in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. Now 40 years later, researchers have pushed back the ages of these earliest-dated modern humans to 195,000 years ago.

The redating is not the first time scientists have pushed back the ages of the oldest modern human remains. In 2003, a separate study of different specimens from Herto, Ethiopia, revamped the ages of the oldest Homo sapiens to approximately 160,000 years old. Using new dating techniques and the inclusion of new sedimentological data, however, scientists have added another 30,000 years to the age of the oldest Homo sapiens, as published in the Feb. 17 Nature.

“This kind of work helps people understand how science works,” says Richard Potts, director of Human Origins at the Smithsonian Institution, and who was not involved in the study. “People think it’s all driven by discovery, but we’ve known about these finds for a while, and it’s the evaluation of the original site that is interesting here.”

Read the full story, which was posted online on Feb. 28, in our Web Extra Archive.

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