Conference on origins of early hominins in East Africa

3-6 Aug. The East African Association for Palaeoanthropology and Palaeontology (EAAPP) is holding its fifth biannual conference this week to review recent international research into the origins of early man in East Africa. The title of this year's conference is Fifty Years after Homo habilis.

Zinjanthropus, an example of Homo habilis, was discovered in July 1959 by Mary Leakey in the Olduvai Gorge, now in the Ngorongoro Conservation area in north Tanzania. It is thought to be about 1.7 million years old and to be one of the earliest hominins to use stone tools. The species Homo habilis dates from about 2.8 to 1.5 million years ago.

In 2013 an even earlier fossil of a human-like jaw, dating to 2.8 million years ago, was discovered in the Afra region of Ethiopia on what is called the Ledi-Geraru site. It is close to where the the fossils of the Australopithecus afarensis Lucy, dating back 3.2 million years, were found in 1974. It is not certain yet whether this new discovery in Ethiopia is an early example of Homo habilis or of a new hominin form that lived before Homo habilis.

It is possible that it could be the link between Australopithecus afarensis, which died out, and Homo habilis, which may eventually have led to Homo sapiens.

Stone tools dating back 3.3 million years, or 700,000 earlier than previous similar finds, have recently been discovered near Lake Turkana in Kenya. The discovery of these pre-Homo habilis tools was announced in San Francisco at a meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society earlier this year. The EAAPP was set up in 2005 to promote scientific research into the origins of man in East Africa as well as best conservation and museum practises.

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Address National Museum and House of Culture, Dar es Salaam

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Conference on origins of early hominins in East Africa

National Museum and House of Culture, Dar es Salaam