Photo National Museum of Kenya
New Hominid Species Kenyathropus Platyops - 3.5 million years old
Dramatic Breakthrough - New Hominid Discovery Rewrites Human Evolution History
March 22, 2001 - A complete skull found in Kenya, dated at 3.5 million years old, is believed to represent a new genus of hominin, or early human. The hominin, named Kenyathropus platyops, would have lived at the time of Australopithicus afarensis, made famous by the "Lucy" skeleton. The skull, found in several pieces, was discovered by team member Justus Erus on an expedition led by Meave and Louise Leakey and sponsored by the National Geographic Society.
Since the early 1980's, many scientists have believed that there was a single common human ancestor, which gave rise to successive species within the past 3 million years. This ancestral species, Australopithecus afarensis, is best known from the partial skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and popularly known as "Lucy". However, the newly discovered Kenyan fossils, which include jaws and teeth in addition to a skull, are from the same time interval as Australopithecus afarensis, but are remarkably different. For example, the new Kenyanthropus skull has a much flatter face than Australopithecus. Hence, Meave Leakey says Kenyanthropus shows persuasively that at least two lineages existed as far back as 3.5 million years; the early stages of human evolution are more complex than we previously thought."