3.3 million years ago, a three year old girl died in present day Ethiopia, in an area called Dikika. Though a baby, she is providing us with unique accounts of our past as a grand mother would! Her completeness, antiquity, and age at death combined make this find unprecedented in the history of paleoanthropology and open many new research avenues to investigate into the infancy of early human ancestors. The extraordinary discovery reported this week in the scientific journal Nature, was found in north-eastern Ethiopia, by a paleoanthropological research team led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. The scientific significance of the new find is multifold, contributing substantially to our comprehension of the morphology, body plan, behavior, movement and developmental patterns of our early ancestors. After full cleaning and preparation of the fossil we will be able to reconstruct, for the first time, much of an entire body of a 3 year-old Australopithecus afarensis child, which will resolve many pending questions on early human evolution.
The new find represents a skeleton of the earliest and most complete juvenile human ancestor ever found that lived 150,000 years before Lucy. She was only three years old when she died and belongs to Australopithecus afarensis (the Lucy species) and was found in an area called Dikika, in Ethiopia, by a paleoanthropological team, the DRP (Dikika Research Project) led by Dr. Zeresenay Alesmeged of the Max Planck Institute. The DRP is an international and multidisciplinary project including several researchers with diverse areas of expertise, and about 40 assistants conducting field research in Ethiopia every year. The first piece of the baby was found on 10, December, 2000, but recovering the partial skeleton required intensive searching and sifting over four successive field seasons between 2000 and 2004.