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HomeTechThis skull belongs to 2MILLION-year-old ‘human cousin’ that gobbled bark – and died out alongside our ancestors

This skull belongs to 2MILLION-year-old ‘human cousin’ that gobbled bark – and died out alongside our ancestors

This skull belongs to 2MILLION-year-old ‘human cousin’ that gobbled bark – and died out alongside our ancestors

THE skull of a ‘cousin’ of the human species unearthed in South Africa could shed more light on how humans evolved, according to its finders.

The two-million-year old skull belongs to an extinct species called Paranthropus robustus that’s thought to have been a ‘cousin species’ of our direct ancestor – Homo erectus.


It took 300 hours to piece the skull back together[/caption]


The skull is around two-million-years old[/caption]

Paranthropus robustus and Home erectus are thought to have lived around the same time but the latter survived for longer.

Fragments of the rare skull were actually dug up in 2018 but researchers are currently looking into what they can teach us.

It was found by Australian researchers at the Drimolen archaeological site north of Johannesburg.

Dr Angeline Leece from Melbourne’s La Trobe University told the BBC: “Most of the fossil record is just a single tooth here and there so to have something like this is very rare, very lucky.”


The discovery was made in South Africa[/caption]

The skull was found very close to where fragments of a Homo erectus child were uncovered in 2015.

Co-researcher Jesse Martin told the BBC that working with the skull was like handling “wet cardboard”.


Tiny fragments of the skull were found close together and then pieced into place[/caption]


The skull was found in 2018[/caption]

He even used a straw to suck the last pieces of dirt from it.

It took a painstaking 300 hours to piece the skull back together.

That’s like working none stop for 12.5 days.

Paranthropus robustus likely competed with our ancestors and are an example of “micro-evolution”.


The species had small brains and big teeth[/caption]

They had large teeth and small brains, which is the opposite of Homo erectus.

It’s thought they ate tough plants and bark.

They could have died out due to a wetter environment reducing their food availability.

Getty – Contributor

Paranthropus robustus may have looked something like this[/caption]

It’s thought Homo erectus ate both plants and meat and this could have help them to outlive Paranthropus robustus.

New findings about the skull have just been published in the Nature, Ecology and Evolution journal.

A timeline of life on Earth

The history of the planet in years…

  • 4.6billion years ago – the origin of Earth
  • 3.8billion years ago – first life appears on Earth
  • 2.1billion years ago – lifeforms made up of multiple cells evolve
  • 1.5billion years ago – eukaryotes, which are cells that contain a nucleus inside of their membranes, emerge
  • 550million years ago – first arthropods evolve
  • 530million years ago – first fish appear
  • 470million years ago – first land plants appear
  • 380million years ago – forests emerge on Earth
  • 370million years ago – first amphibians emerge from the water onto land
  • 320million years ago – earliest reptiles evolve
  • 230million years ago – dinosaurs evolve
  • 200million years ago – mammals appear
  • 150million years ago – earliest birds evolve
  • 130million years ago – first flowering plants
  • 100million years ago – earliest bees
  • 55million years ago – hares and rabbits appear
  • 30million years ago – first cats evolve
  • 20million years ago – great apes evolve
  • 7million years ago –first human ancestors appear
  • 2million years ago – Homo erectus appears
  • 300,000 years ago – Homo sapiens evolves
  • 50,000 years ago – Eurasia and Oceania colonised
  • 40,000 years ago – Neandethal extinction

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In other archaeology news, the ‘biggest archaeological discovery of the year’ will soon be announced by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

A sacrificed llama mummies have been dug up in Peru and they’re almost perfectly preserved after 500 years.

And, a Viking temple dedicated to Old Norse gods like Thor has been unearthed by archaeologists.

What do you think of the skull discovery? Let us know in the comments…

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