Discovery of 13 million-year-old ape skull shows what human ancestors may have looked like

Source: Washington Post

To the untrained eye, the area west of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya appears to be barren of anything but rocky hills and volcanic ash.

But anthropologists know the Napudet region of the Turkana Basin as a promising newdig site for fossils from the Middle Miocene era, about 13 million years ago. And one professor’s persistence there would pay off in a monumental discovery: a rare, complete skull of a baby ape that could give scientists a glimpse at what our common ancestors looked like.

The discovery almost didn’t happen.

When Isaiah Nengo, an anthropology professor at De Anza College in California, sought to assemble a team for a three-week expedition there in 2014, no one wanted to go.

“There was nothing useful to be found,” Nengo said others told him.

Undeterred, Nengo, who had just spent two years at the University of Nairobi on a Fulbright scholarship, returned to Kenya and gathered a ragtag group of local fossil finders. There were six of them in total, including the camp cook.

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