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« on: February 18, 2005, 06:45:54 AM »

Human Fossils Dated to 195, 000 Years

Published: February 17, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) -- A new analysis of bones unearthed nearly 40 years ago in Ethiopia has pushed the fossil record of modern humans back to nearly 200,000 years ago -- perhaps close to the dawn of the species.

Researchers determined that the specimens are around 195,000 years old. Previously, the oldest known fossils of Homo sapiens were Ethiopian skulls dated to about 160,000 years ago.

Genetic studies estimate that Homo sapiens arose about 200,000 years ago, so the new research brings the fossil record more in line with that, said John Fleagle of Stony Brook University in New York, an author of the study.

The fossils were found in 1967 near the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia. One location yielded Omo I, which includes part of a skull plus skeletal bones. Another site produced Omo II, which has more of a skull but no skeletal bones. Neither specimen has a complete face.

Although Omo II shows more primitive characteristics than Omo I, scientists called both specimens Homo sapiens and assigned a tentative age of 130,000 years.

Now, after visiting the discovery sites, analyzing their geology and testing rock samples with more modern dating techniques, Fleagle and colleagues report in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature that both specimens are 195,000 years old, give or take 5,000 years.

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