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Homo sapiens idaltu

Homo sapiens idaltu (Afar: Idaltu; "elder" or "first born"[1]), also called Herto Man,[1] is the name given to a number of early modern human fossils found in 1997 in Herto Bouri, Ethiopia. They date to around 160,000 years ago.[2]

Homo sapiens idaltu
Temporal range: Pleistocene (Lower Paleolithic), 0.16 Ma
Homo Sapiens Idaltu.JPG
Homo sapiens idaltu skull
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Homininae
Tribe: Hominini
Genus: Homo
H. s. idaltu
Trinomial name
Homo sapiens idaltu
White et al., 2003

Paleoanthropologists determined that the skeletal finds belong to an extinct subspecies of Homo sapiens who lived in Pleistocene Africa. In the narrow definition of H. sapiens, the subspecies H. s. idaltu falls under the umbrella of Anatomically modern humans.[3] The recognition of H. s. idaltu as a valid subspecies of the anatomically modern human lineage would justify the description of contemporary humans with the subspecies name H. s. sapiens, though some researchers do not consider idaltu distinct enough within H. sapiens to warrant its own subspecies designation, and instead classify it simply as H. sapiens.[4][5][6] Because of their early dating and unique physical characteristics, they represent the immediate ancestors of anatomically modern humans, as suggested by the Out-of-Africa theory.[1][7]


The fossilized remains of Homo sapiens idaltu were discovered at Herto Bouri near the Middle Awash site of Ethiopia's Afar Triangle in 1997 by Tim White, Giday WoldeGabriel and Berhane Asfaw, but were first unveiled in 2003.[1] Herto Bouri is a region of Ethiopia under volcanic layers. According to radioisotope dating, the layers are between 154,000 and 160,000 years old. Three well preserved crania are accounted for, the best preserved being from an adult male (BOU-VP-16/1) having a brain capacity of 1,450 cm3 (88 cu in). The other crania include another partial adult male and a six-year-old child.[1][8]

Morphology and taxonomyEdit

The Herto remains differ from those of chronologically later forms of early Homo sapiens, their morphology has features that show resemblances to African fossils, such as huge and robust skulls, yet have a globular shape of the brain-case and the facial features typical of H. sapiens.[1][9]

Anthropologist Chris Stringer argued in a 2003 article in the journal Nature that "the skulls might not be distinctive enough to warrant a new subspecies name".[10][11]

Location of discovery

These specimens represent the direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens sapiens which, according to the "recent African origin (RAO)" or "out of Africa" model, developed shortly after this period (Khoisan mitochondrial divergence dated not later than 130,000 BCE[citation needed]) in Eastern Africa. "The many morphological features shared by the Herto crania and AMHS, to the exclusion of penecontemporaneous Neanderthals, provide additional fossil data excluding Neanderthals from a significant contribution to the ancestry of modern humans."[1]

A 2005 potassium-argon dating of volcanic tuff associated with the Omo remains showed them to date from around 195,000 years ago. At the time of the dating, this made these fossils the earliest known remains of anatomically modern humans, older than the idaltu specimens.[12] In 2013, comparative craniometric analysis of the Herto idaltu skull with ancient and recent crania from other parts of Africa found that the specimen was morphologically closest to the Pleistocene Rabat fossil and Early Holocene Kef Oum Touiza skeleton. A later study found that Herto man and his contemporaries were cranially similar to Oceanians, with Northern Melenesians being the closest.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g White, Tim D.; Asfaw, B.; DeGusta, D.; Gilbert, H.; Richards, G. D.; Suwa, G.; Howell, F. C. (2003), "Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia", Nature, 423 (6491): 742–747, Bibcode:2003Natur.423..742W, doi:10.1038/nature01669, PMID 12802332
  2. ^ "160,000-year-old fossilized skulls uncovered in Ethiopia are oldest anatomically modern humans". UC Berkeley. June 11, 2003. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  3. ^ Robert Sanders, 160,000-year-old fossilized skulls uncovered in Ethiopia are oldest anatomically modern humans, | 11 June 2003
  4. ^ Stringer, Chris (June 12, 2003). "Human evolution: Out of Ethiopia". Nature. 423 (6941): 693–695. Bibcode:2003Natur.423..692S. doi:10.1038/423692a. PMID 12802315.
  5. ^ "Herto skulls (Homo sapiens idaltu)". talkorigins org. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  6. ^ Stringer, C. (2016). "The origin and evolution of Homo sapiens". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 371 (1698): 20150237. doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0237. PMC 4920294. PMID 27298468.
  7. ^ "Meet the Contenders for Earliest Modern Human". Smithsonian. January 11, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  8. ^ White, TD; Asfaw, B; DeGusta, D; et al. (June 2003). "Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia". Nature. 423 (6941): 742–7. Bibcode:2003Natur.423..742W. doi:10.1038/nature01669. PMID 12802332.
  9. ^ "HOMO SAPIENS IDALTU". Bradshaw foundation. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  10. ^ Stringer, Chris (June 12, 2003). "Human evolution: Out of Ethiopia". Nature. 423 (6941): 693–695. Bibcode:2003Natur.423..692S. doi:10.1038/423692a. PMID 12802315.
  11. ^ "Herto skulls (Homo sapiens idaltu)". talkorigins org. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  12. ^ McDougall, I.; Brown, F. H.; Fleagle, J. G. (2005), "Stratigraphic placement and age of modern humans from Kibish, Ethiopia", Nature, 433 (7027): 733–736, Bibcode:2005Natur.433..733M, doi:10.1038/nature03258, PMID 15716951
  13. ^ Reyes-Centeno, H.; Hubbe, M; Hanihara, T.; Stringer, C.; Harvati, K. (2015), "Testing modern human out-of-Africa dispersal models and implications for modern human origins", Journal of Human Evolution, 87: 95–106, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.06.008, PMID 26164107

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