A new study conducted by an international team of researchers has suggested that Homo Erectus, the ancestors of modern humans, are much older than previously speculated. Scientists made this conclusion after analyzing the remains of a hominin discovered at Drimolen near Johannesburg, South Africa.
Drimolean holds the key
The Drimolean rolling hills, northwest of Johannesburg, are famous for fossils of human-like creatures, and as a result, the area is known as the cradle of humankind.
"During our field school excavations at Drimolen, a student began uncovering a cluster of fragments. We could see that they were parts of a skull. But they weren't immediately identifiable. Over the course of the field season, more and more fragments were uncovered. We began piecing them together. No one could decide what this skullcap was from, until one night it all came together -- and we realized we were looking at a hominin," said Stephanie Baker, a researcher at the Palaeo-Research Institute at the University of Johannesburg, in a recent statement.
Later, experts conducted a series of experiments to determine what kind of hominin the new fossil remains belonged to. Scientists found that the relatively big brain cavity of the unearthed skull actually belonged to Homo Erectus.
"This find really challenged us. We compared the assembled skullcap to all of the other examples of hominins in the Cradle area. Eventually, its teardrop shape and relatively big brain cavity meant we were looking at Homo erectus," added Baker.
Homo Erectus much older than previously thought
Homo Erectus is considered a direct ancestor of humans, and they are known for migrating out of Africa to the rest of the world. Interestingly, no other fossil remains of Homo Erectus have been found in South Africa until now.
The oldest known remains of Homo Erectus were discovered in Dmanisi, Georgia, and they were almost 1.8 million years old. However, studies conducted on the newly discovered fossil in South Africa suggests that they are 2.04 to 1.95 million years old.