South African fossils are redated based on new paleoanthropological evidence. Age was determined to be 1,000,000 years older than estimated.
The most complete skull of an African Australopithecus (Australopithecus africanus) was discovered in South Africa in 1947 and is often referred to as “Ms. Ples.” In light of the latest research, the skull likely dates back between 3.4 and 3.6 million years. This suggests the southern Australopithecus in question shared a timeline with the well-known “Lucy,” an Australopithecus from East Africa.
More Australopithecus fossils have been discovered at the Sterkfontein Caves, southwest of Johannesburg (sometimes called the “Cradle of Mankind”), than in any other location on Earth. Ms. Pless and the remainder of the fossils have previously been dated to between 2.1 and 2.6 million years ago. The latest research, however, conducted by Darryl Granger of the US Purdue University and published in the journal of the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that this changes their age by a million years.
It is currently believed that the East African Australopithecus (Australopithecus afarensis), of which “Lucy” is the most famous specimen, coexisted with humans on the “dark continent” 3.2 million years ago. Scientists have not ruled out the possibility that these two pre-human creatures traveled great distances to meet and interbreed, a fact that, if it occurred, would further complicate the tree of human development.
There is evidence that australopithecines walked upright on two legs, although they were far shorter than modern humans (on average 1.38 meters for males and 1.15 meters for females).
Photo credit: José Braga; Didier Descouens.