Homo sapiens idaltu

Homo sapiens idaltu is an extinct subspecies of Homo sapiens that lived nearly 160,000 years ago during the Pleistocene in Africa. “Idaltu” comes from the Saho-Afar word meaning “elder” or “first born”.

The fossilized remains of H. s. idaltu were uncovered at Herto Bouri near the Middle Awash site of Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle in the year 1997 by Tim White, but were first revealed in 2003. Herto Bouri is a portion of Ethiopia under volcanic layers. By using radioisotope dating, the layers date between 154,000 and 160,000 years old. Three well preserved crania are accounted for, the best preserved being from an adult male (BOU-VP-16/1) having a brain capacity of 1,450 cubic centimeters. The other crania include another incomplete adult male and six year old child.

These fossils are different from those of chronologically later forms of early H. sapiens such as Cro-Magnon found in Europe and other sections of the world in that their morphology has many archaic features that are not typical of H. sapiens.

In spite of the archaic features, these specimens were argued to symbolize the direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens which, according to the “recent African origin (RAO)” or “out of Africa” model, developed not long after this period in Eastern Africa. The many morphological features that are shared by the Herto crania and AMHS, to the omission of penecontemporaneous Neanderthals, supply additional fossil data not including Neanderthals from a noteworthy contribution to the ancestry of modern humans.

A 2005 potassium-argon dating of volcanic tuff connected with the Omo remains showed them to date from about 195,000 years ago, making them older than the idaltu fossils and the earliest known remains of anatomically modern humans.

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