January 8, 2012

Eritrea’s New Specimen Fossils Expected to Announce the Progressive Evolution of Homo Heidelbergenesis Part III

by Kesete Ghebrehiwet | As mentioned earlier in the two parts of this article, the archeological findings discovered in the late 2011 harbor in them rich historical information that transcends beyond a mere imagination. This later finding is expected to overtake the earlier human fossil records. With this finding, Clement Zanolli, Post- Doc paleoanthropology researcher from France National Museum said “We got the opportunity to discover a new specimen that ages more than one million years which is quite relevant in further reinforcing the human fossil record that was confined to only a few specimens, especially in Africa.”

Clement thinks that, though this specimen still needs to be analyzed, it represents relatively a longer cranium in its measurements with a quite narrower width. The new specimen finding, scientists like Clement believe, is similar at least to other remains from Nigeria, which are but younger in age that are dated to around seven hundred thousand years ago.

These specimens have now signaled to be one of the very earliest; exceeding to such like findings carried out elsewhere. The potential to find much earlier fossils is still high. “We also hope to find more of this cranium, because we don’t know if this cranium belongs to the same specimen,” he said. “And in the next field, we expect to find more human remains in the Mulhuli-Amo site which is now better understood.”

Another scientist, Roberto Macchiarelli, Professor of Human paleoanthropology, also pointed out that the human remains have been discovered in the context of a number of sites and spots which are unbelievably rich of cultural remains that are typically characterized by predation technology that were reported in East Africa and other parts of the world.

A large number of tools that was utilized in hunting practices have been studied by the members of the National Museum and partners form different Universities. These tools indeed marked a high point of civilization of the societies lived centuries ago. In this regard, Prof. Roberto said “Our colleagues have extensively studied raw materials that are quite random which include basalt; quartz and bond were utilized in day-to-day lives of the ancient societies.”

Any material that was suitably used for cutting animal flesh was eroded from the highlands and then contorted by the river or by the water. According to Prof. Roberto such material remains were found as a result of collaborative efforts of his colleagues, and notably Tsegay. These findings gave a new insight that focuses on relationships between blades, for example, that were used to process the carcasses. “We don’t believe that homo-ergaster or homo-erectus were very skillful professional but rather these hunters likely had an opportunistic behavior and they may, sometimes, use other tools to process carcasses killed by other professional predators, such as carnivorous.” The Professor explained.

Technology had indeed played a significant part in solving the challenges of having access to bone marrow which was in accessible even by carnivorous animals such as hyena. Various tools were utilized to break bones. But, the tools imply that it was a very long process for anyone who wished to have access to the marrow.

According to Prof. Roberto, one had to go through a lengthy process to make a fracture and then extract the marrow. He said that they had found a number of tools that were very essential in the hunting practice. “Even this year, we found a number of the so called cutting tools that were used in the past times in every human activity and particularly to dismember a skeleton or to disarticulate some parts of limb bones and the peripheral parts of long bones that are pressed regularly to extract them for feeding the marrow,” He elaborated.

The studies conducted on varied types of tools have now pinpointed to the technical capabilities of such ancient societies, however, extensive studies still need to be carried out to acquire knowledge on how they managed to cut the strongest brain shells of mammals. In this respect, Prof. Roberto said: “We still didn’t clearly discover their know-how of a tool they had to use to cut large mammal crania and then to extract the brain which is very rich protein material that could survive for days after the death of the animal. But, it is clearly easy to open the mouth and remove the tongue with the blade.”

Pointing out that they still are not in a sophisticated phase of their study, the professor reiterated that they are confidently capable of showing some specific behavior of this kind. The outcomes of the researches and experiments that have so far been carried out should not be viewed lightly, but it is important also to note such a study is just preliminary. “We know that humans have exploited any kind of animal like crocodiles, hippos, or other large and medium sized mammals. However, we have not started yet a chemical or physical analysis which could show us all the possible rapport on non-animal food. We shall do it in the future depending on the availability of human remains,” he expressed his enthusiasm.

Alfredo Coppa, Professor of Physical Anthropology, has an opinion that the finding is just a much more recent part of the history of the Danakil, in general and the Eritrea’s Danakil in particular. But ironically, he said: “We know, at this time, more of what happened before one Million years ago in the Danakil area.” He further elaborated that they have now mainly aimed at clarifying it in a much border sense in terms of time, the settlement of the humans in such part of the world so as to know what happened over there.

To do so the scientists have to work on varied monuments available in the Danakil area. “Since Danakil is full of monuments, we have started the project working on much more recent monuments, mostly graves pertaining to different types. So, we decided this year to excavate, for the first time as far as I knew, in the Danakil, a grave of a period we are not able to say now.” Alfredo said.

What happened in excavating the grave? Was the result of endeavors made fruitful? Were they historically important? Prof. Alfredo plainly puts the result of the excavation as follows:

We have excavated this very large area that looks like a tower with 14 meters of diameter, thickness of walls 6ms, and inside there is a grave. When we opened and cleared it we found that was very gigantic wall as it was stone built, everything was made of stone. And inside we found an individual, possibly male, and this is the starting point for a new adventure of understanding what happened in the Danakil in the last ten thousand years ago. Our dream is to fill all the gaps. As regards this amazing finding, Tesegay Medin also shared his opinion saying:

This specimen was found at one corner of the grave in a semi flexible structure. In association with this, we found some ceramics and some other faunal bones on the other side; however we need to see the anatomy for further studies. Such kinds of findings are also found in some other parts of the high lands and low lands of Eritrea like the evidences in Bisha and Adi-Bari around Mendefera. But what makes this basin very important is that there is an evidence for the pre-Islam and Christianity period from some ethnographic accounts and other indications. And we are going to record this research properly in a way it can have the exact date of these potential bones.

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