Oxford, Ohio 45056
(513) 529-1950 fax
Hart involved in hominid discoveries
A Miami geologist is part of the research team that has found a new species of human ancestor in east Africa and determined our ancestors used tools for butchering animals 2.5 million years ago.
William K. Hart (geology) and former graduate student Tonja Larson were working at the Ethiopia site in fall 1996, when the initial discoveries were made.
“It’s a key time because the genus Homo evolved from Australopithe-cenes. There’s been poor fossil evidence for when it happened, and this may bring us to a closer time period,” says Hart.
“The new species is most like its ancestor afarensis (e.g. Lucy),” said White. “The face projects forward, the braincase is crested and small, but the premolars and molars are enormous. This combination of features has never been seen before.”
The discoveries, made between 1996 and last December, come from the Bouri peninsula in the Middle Awash study area in the Afar desert of Ethiopia. The new fossils were dated by the argon-argon radioisotopic method.
In 1994, the same research team announced the discovery of Ardipi-thecus, the earliest known hominid at 4.4 million years old, at the nearby Middle Awash site of Aramis.
The new discoveries are important for three reasons.
Hart conducts research in igneous petrology, volcanology and isotope geochemistry and maintains field programs in Alaska, Ethiopia and the northwestern United States.
His Ethiopian research since 1990 has been funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Ohio Board of Regents.
Date Published: 04/29/1999