Back in 1967 I was trying to find the right college to attend; at the time I wanted to study anthropology and archaeology. The U of Arizona had a good reputation in those areas of study, and by virtue of my parents’ declared residence I was eligible for resident tuition there. So off I went.
I discovered that I really didn’t want to study much of anything at age eighteen, but that’s another story. While I was taking Intro to Anthro courses in 1968 I had the opportunity to see and hear Louis Leakey speak about the latest discoveries from the field, particularly at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.
All of that is to say that while I never went on with my studies I remain interested in anthropology, so I was fascinated by the news yesterday that a “new” (fifteen years ago, actually, but it takes a long time to study fossils) find had provided a lot of new evidence to study. While the earliest known hominid can be dated to roughly 6 – 7 million years ago, there’s very little physical evidence of that creature available to study. With the discovery of Ardipithecus, we now know much more about hominids who existed 4.4 million years ago, or 1.2 million years before Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis hominid who’s been the most famous skeleton in the world till now.
If it fascinates you too, I strongly suggest you read Carl Zimmer’s blog post about it rather than trying to get accurate background from the enthusiastic-but-uninformed mainstream press.