afrol News, 14 November - Archaeologists have found what they term "an important new fossil of a Homo erectus female pelvis from approximately 1.3 million years ago" in Ethiopia. The fossil is expected to "reveal important new information about human evolution," researchers say.
The Gona Palaeo-anthropological Research Project, a cooperation between Ethiopian and US archaeologists engaged at the prehistoric site of Gona in Ethiopia, today announced what they called an "important" discovery several years ago by Ethiopian researcher Ali Ma'anda Datto.
According to the team, this is the "first female homo erectus pelvis" ever to be found at the yielding Gona field in Ethiopia's Afar province. "This fossil reveals important new information about human evolution, especially the evolution of women and the childbirth process," the archaeologists hold.
The archaeologist team is controlled by the highly commercial "Stone Age Institute" at the US Indiana University, which is known for prioritising publicity instead of scientific transparency. For that reason, the discovery, which was made in February 2001, was kept secret for years, until an agreement had been reached for publication today in the renowned journal 'Science'.
The pelvis was found in deposits north of the Busidima River, a seasonal river that feeds into the Awash River. Research continued in the area, and an excavation carried out in 2003 yielded the right and left hip bones, and the last lumbar vertebra from one ancient woman. Numerous animal fossils, including a variety of wild antelopes, pigs, rats, horses, and reptiles were also found at the pelvis site.
The Gona site is known for the discovery of the oldest stone tools in the world dated to be around 2.6 million years old. The newly found hominid pelvis site is located some 12 kilometres from the site of these oldest stone tool discoveries.
The oldest female pelvis belonging to a hominid comes from the famous 3.2 million years old fossil skeleton widely known as "Lucy". "Lucy" was a less developed hominid species, Australopithecus afarensis, while the new fossil is the much more human-like Homo erectus. Lucy was discovered at Hadar, also in Ethiopia's Afar desert, a site that is contiguous to Gona, and located just a few kilometres to the east.
The archaeologists already have managed to deduce many theories from the female pelvis found at Busidima River. It shows that homo erectus females were capable of giving birth to much larger children than earlier expected, meaning that their offsprings almost as developed as the children of modern humans. Homo erectus females were until now "believed to have delivered developmentally immature offspring with rapid brain growth after birth," the researchers say.
The discovery is one in a long line of archaeological findings explaining the few remaining details of the "missing link" between our primate ancestors and modern humans. It helps explaining the developmental state our offspring was born with during different stages of human evolution - which is of importance considering the energy our species invests in the brain and its development and activities.
Ethiopian archaeologist Sileshi Semaw noted that "Gona has yielded important information on several critical time periods in human evolution, including the first stone tools in the world, and now the new pelvis discovery providing the first accurate estimate of the size of the birth canal dimensions of female Homo erectus', which in turn accurately reflects the size of the brain of their newborns."
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