An upper molar has been found in the Cradle of Human Evolution, which is situated in the Western part of Central Africa. This molar is evidence that the hominins occupied this part of Africa nearly 2 million years ago.
The molar was discovered by an anthropologist in the 1950’s. The age of the molar could not be given at the time as the technology to do so did not yet exist. Only in 2014, did a team of researchers and an anthropologist from New York University put a rough number on how old the molar really is. The upper molar that was discovered belonged to a young person in a layer of sediment dating back to the Plio-Pleistocen about 1.8 to 2.6 million years ago.
A fascinating consistency in the dental enamel thickness and the dimensions with the molar was revealed in the early East and Southern African hominins. The hominins are classified as a tribe if primates sharing some defining qualities with humans, for example, walking on two feet as well as increased brain size.
Up until this point we assumed that the early humans had stayed in the Eastern branch of Central Africa. It is now believed that the early hominins were further West and as a result researchers have revealed that the should be searching further West in search of early hominins.
This does not mean that the search in the east is not an important place to search for early human evolution; it just means that by expanding their search further west than they originally thought, they will find additional results in their search.
The East Africa rift system that runs southwards through Eastern Africa has two main branches namely the Main Eastern Gregory Rift and the smaller Western Albertine Rift. The larger section is considered to be the cradle of human evolution and it has sites where hundreds of the early hominin fossils have been found. Even though the Western Albertine branch is part of the same system, there have been no discoveries as yet.
The dental records give us a refined understanding of the early hominin evolution, and that they did in fact relocate to new regions beyond East and South Africa. It also shows us just how effectively modern technology can shed a light on old samples, which in this case is a 60-year-old-find of a molar tooth.
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