Friday, March 25, 2016

Kenya unveils remains of early man fossil

Kenyan researchers on Thursday unveiled the remains of one of the earliest human species to inhibit the earth that were discovered at an archeological site near the capital Nairobi.

Believed to be 3.5 million years old, the remains of Australopithecus afarensis, had earlier been discovered in Tanzania and Ethiopia while their discovery in Kenya could reinforce its famed status as a cradle for mankind.

The Kenyan researchers told journalists in Nairobi that an excavation exercise that lasted four years couple with scientific analysis led to discovery of the remains of the early human species.

Dr Emma Mbua, an Associate Research Scientist at the National Museums of Kenya said discovery of remains of the early human species marked a critical milestone in paleontology.

"We now have scientific evidence to prove that Kenya remains the cradle of man and urge the government to gazette the fossil site where remains of Australopithecus were discovered," said Mbua.

The early human species was discovered at a fossil site dated to 3.5 million years old near the Ngong Hills, further confirming Kenya's place as the cradle for human origins.

This is the first time that the A. afarensis species has been discovered in Kenya with previous finds located in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

A consortium of Kenyan, French, Japanese and American scientists conducted research that led to the discovery of remains of early human species at the foot of Ngong Hills near Nairobi.

Mbua revealed the remains were first identified by a farmer who alerted scientists at the national Museums of Kenya.

"The fossils have been observed by the farmer for more than three decades and he later informed us about their presence. We excavated the site for four years, took the samples for analysis and their genetic makeup confirmed their connection to the earliest man," Mbua said.

According to researchers, the discovery is the first evidence of early human species close to a major urban centre, showing that they lived close to the city.

These previous finds have also been restricted to the Rift Valley and the discovery at Kantis Fossil Site (KFS) is the first to be located in the highlands.

The species is believed to be adapted to a wider range of habitats, for example, from open grasslands / savannahs to woodland.

She added that Kenyan paleontologists will intensify research in other parts of the country in a bid to unearth further evidence on human evolution.

"It is possible we have fossil sites in other parts of the country that may offer clue to the earliest human ancestry," Mbua told Xinhua, adding that more excavations will be done in future to help discover remains of the oldest human species

Discovery of remains of the earliest man near the Kenyan capital, Nairobi could position the country as a hub for archeological tourism.

Head of Paleontology Department at the National Museums of Kenya, Dr Job Kibii said the archeological site near Nairobi where Australopithecus remains were found in likely to attract local and foreign tourists.

"The discovery of remains of the early man place Kenya at the heart of rigorous attention on human evolution. We expect more tourists and researchers to visit the site where these remains were found," Kibii said.

Kantis Fossil Site (KFS)now joins other important early human sites in Kenya that have yielded fossils comprising at least five species. Other sites include Koobi Fora, Kanapoi and Nariokotome on the eastern and western side of Lake Turkana respectively.

"It is our expectations that KFS due to its proximity to Nairobi city, will serve as an important tourist destination in addition to research, and will attract visitors that are interested in early human development story," the researchers said.

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