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Geologists Uncover Major Ancient Human Ancestor in South Africa - Windows to the Universe

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Two-million-year-old Australopithicus sediba (southern ape), a new species of hominid.
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Courtesy of Wits University

Geologists Uncover Major Ancient Human Ancestor in South Africa

Scientists in South Africa have discovered two fossil skeletons that are about two million years old. These skeletons are of a young male and adult female of a species that had never been found before.

They are a species related to humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans that lived long ago. With long arms and a small brain, these animals were a bit like apes. They were also a bit like humans. The bones show that they walked upright like humans.

Scientist Daniel Farber and his research team studied the rocks in the area where the fossils were found. They hoped to get a better idea of how these human ancestors lived. They also wanted to figure out the best places to look for more fossils.

They found that this young male and adult female died around the same time. About two million years ago their bodies were carried in a landslide of sediments and buried.

Other animals like saber-tooth cats, hyenas, wild dogs, were also carried in the landslide. Their fossils are found in the rocks too.

Last modified May 21, 2010 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF