According to the discoverers, the new Ethiopian hominid fossils, named Australopithecus garhi, help fill a serious void in the east African record of human origins that spans a duration of between 2 and 3 million years ago. This void has made it impossible to settle scientifically the relationship between the 1.8-million-year-old Homo habilis and earlier ape-like Australopithecus africanus.
Increasingly, the focus on African early hominid fossil wealth has centered on Ethiopian sites in contrast to the last few decades' focus on better-known productive sites in Tanzania, Kenya and elsewhere. "With the publication of these new results, and with a record spanning five million years, Ethiopia's Middle Awash has become the world's most important single site for studying human origins and evolution," said White.
The research in the Middle Awash area is supported mainly by the National Science Foundation. Additional support comes from the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics of the University of California's Los Alamos National Laboratory and several other institutions mentioned in the published Science articles. The international research team includes archaeologists, geologists and paleontologists from diverse institutions in 13 countries.