Science Magazine has published a special issue that details the discovery of a hominid that predates Lucy by over a million years. “Ardi” is now the oldest known hominin skeleton and is Lucy’s ancestor. Ardi, an Ardipithecus ramidus from Aramis, Ethiopia is the oldest known skeleton of a potential human ancestor who reveals the body plan of our very early ancestors and the upright origins of humankind.
The skeleton includes most of the skull and teeth, as well as the pelvis, hands, and feet – parts that the authors say reveal an ‘intermediate’ form of upright walking. Much to some surprise, she doesn’t look much like a chimpanee, gorilla or any of the other primates we usually associate with this progression.
She was as big as a chimpanzee and had a brain size to match. But she did not knuckle-walk or swing through the trees like living apes. Instead, she walked upright, planting her feet flat on the ground, perhaps eating nuts, insects, and small mammals in the woods.
Of course, with any new discovery of this type, there will be debate about what it reveals about our ancestors. But despite any debate that follows, Ardi provides researchers with solid evidence to frame that debate in.
This timeline shows the link between earlier and later hominins (also called hominids).
The story of Ardi’s discovery is well-documented in the downloadable PDF file linked above, and is very interesting to read. Many more photos are included, so I highly recommend downloading and reading it.