London, Jan. 12 (EFE). The oldest remains of Homo sapiens, found in eastern Africa, may be older than 230,000 years, according to the new calculation by an international team of experts and published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
The research delays more than 30,000 years of the age of the fossil known as Omo 1 – discovered in 1967 at the Omo Kepish site (Ethiopia) – after analyzing the “chemical fingerprint” left by a large volcanic eruption.
This working group, led by experts from the University of Cambridge (UK), dated the volcanic ash layers above and below where Omo I was buried, an area of the rift valley with significant volcanic activity and rich in early human remains.
“Using these methods, the generally accepted age of Omo fossils is less than 200,000 years, but there has been a lot of uncertainty about this date,” volcanologist Céline Vidal, lead author of the study, explains in a statement.
He notes that the fossils were found “in sequence”, under a “thick layer” of volcanic ash, however, “no one has yet been able to determine the date” through “radiometric techniques”, because the ash consists of a “very fine grain” .
The new analyzes by Vidal and colleagues were combined into a four-year project in which they attempted to date all large eruptions recorded in the Rift Valley during the period when the first Homo sapiens appeared, at the end of the middle Pleistocene. ..
Thus, they conducted geochemical analyzes to correlate the formation of the thick layer of volcanic ash from the above-mentioned sediments with the eruption of the Shala volcano, located more than 400 km away and occurred 230 thousand years ago.
The researchers found that the fossil remains of Omo were under a thick layer of ash in question and concluded that they must be more than 230,000 years old.
“Unlike other fossils from the Middle Pleistocene that are believed to belong to the early stages of the Homo sapiens lineage, Omo I undoubtedly possessed the characteristics of modern humans,” notes study co-author Aurélien Mounier of the Musée du Man from Paris.
The researchers point out that while this work establishes the minimum age for Homo sapiens in East Africa, future studies may extend the lifespan of our species backwards once again.
“Our forensic approach provides a lower age limit for Homo sapiens in East Africa, but the challenge remains that we can put a maximum limit on its incidence, which is believed to have occurred in this region,” concludes Christine Lane, from the University of Cambridge.
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