Exciting science news
A 500,000 year old hominid fossil was recently discovered at a travertine factory, near Denizli, Turkey. Science Magazine (probably firewalled) reports:
The Middle East has long been an important crossroads for human travelers. "It's been clear for some time that earlier hominids must have dispersed into Europe from western Asia and/or Africa, and Turkey sits squarely on the likely route," says paleoanthropologist Philip Rightmire of Harvard University, who was not a member of the team. Paleontologists have spent decades prospecting in Turkey for remains of a direct human ancestor, Homo erectus, which was the first hominid to migrate out of Africa. Although scientists have uncovered fossils of H. erectus that lived 1.7 million years ago in nearby Georgia, they have found few fossils of humans in this region that are between 1.7 million and 120,000 years old.
After the factory manager contacted a researcher at the local university, he alerted the rest of the team, which included researchers in France, Germany, and the United States. They report in the current issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology that the find most closely resembles H. erectus. However, Rightmire says it could also be a member of H. heidelbergensis, a species found in Europe that is thought to be the direct ancestor of Neandertals.
H. heidelbergensis finds are particularly rare.