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The Cradle of Humanity

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Addis Ababa October 17-18 2009 056

View of Addis Ababa from Emperor Menelik II’s palace overlooking the city

Ethiopia is truly the cradle of humanity. The oldest fossil remains of our species, Homo sapiens, were found right here, as were the oldest undisputed stem-group human fossils, those of a tree-dwelling hominid called Ardipithecus kadabba.

Ethiopia is the most genetically diverse nation on the planet, as a short walk down any crowded street in Addis Ababa will attest. Genetic diversity declines in every direction radiating outward from Addis, supporting the view that this is where our species began before spreading out all over the planet.

Addis Ababa October 17-18 2009 001

The National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis presents a continuous parade of our ancestors, from Ardipithecus all the way to early Homo sapiens.

Ardipithecus kadabba

Fossil teeth and bone fragments of Ardipithecus kadabba, dated 5.6 mya. The name is derived from the Afar words Ardi = “ground” and kadabba = “big father,” so the name means, roughly, “Granddaddy of the ground apes.”

Ardipithecus ramidus

Fossil teeth and bone fragments of Ardipithecus ramidus, dated 4.8 mya

Australopithecus anemensis

Fossil teeth and bone fragments of Australopithecus anamensis, dated 4.2 mya

Australopithecus afarensis

Australopithecus afarensis skull, dated 3.6 mya

A afarensis b

Skeleton of an A. afarensis female, dubbed “Lucy” by her discoverers

A afarensis a

Artist’s conception of how a three-year-old specimen of A. afarensis may have appeared in life

Australopithecus garhi

Australopithecus garhi skull, dated 2.5 mya

Homo habilis b

Homo habilis skull, dated 1.4 mya

Homo erectus

Homo erectus skull, dated 1.0 mya

Homo erectus hand axes

Homo erectus hand axes, dated 1.0 mya

Homo rhodesiensis

Homo rhodesiensis skull, dated 600,000 years ago

Homo sapiens c

Homo sapiens Idaltu skull dated 160,000 years ago

Homo sapiens idaltu

Artist’s conception of how Homo sapiens Idaltu may have appeared in life

Addis Ababa

Street scene in Addis Ababa

All photos by author

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1 Comment

  1. I was very upset when it turned out that Lucy was currently travelling outside of the country at the time when I worked in Addis over the summer.

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