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Meet the earliest baby girl ever discovered

s and modern humans are known by fairly complete skeletons of infants. For the preceding several million years of human evolution, however, not a single young child is know by remains representing more than a skull, a piece of jaw or some isolated teeth. By its completeness and state of preservation, the Dikika girl stands as one of the major discoveries in the history of Paleoanthropology. The find comprises the whole skull with a natural brain sandstone impression in addition to previously completely unknown or very little known skeletal parts including the hyoid bone. Of the upper part of the skeleton, most of the spinal column, both shoulder blades, the ribs and both collar bones were recovered. Shoulder blades, are almost absent in the fossil record of the earliest human ancestors save for fragmentary pieces from Lucy and another Australopithecus species (Australopithecus africanus). Parts of the lower limb, including both knee caps and substantial parts of the thigh and shinbone from both legs, were also recovered in addition to an almost complete foot. Contextual evidence from the sediments that yielded the baby, in addition to absence of evidence for carnivore activities, abrasion or corpse transport indicate that she was probably buried in a rapid flood event soon after death. It is also possible that the same flood could have caused her demise.

When discovered, all bones of the upper part of the skeleton including the skull, the shoulder blades, the collar bones, the ribs and the spinal column were encased in a very compact sandstone block and glued to each other. In most cases the difficulty paleoanthropologists face is putting very fragmentary pieces they find back together. In the case of the Dikika girl, however, the challenge was the opposite; sediments had to be removed almost grain by grain using dental instruments passing between ribs and the twisted spinal column. The process has taken the MPI researcher five years so far. The specimen wa
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Contact: Sandra Jacob
jacob@eva.mpg.de
49-341-355-0122
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
21-Sep-2006


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