Toumai, The Oldest Relative of the Human Race

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Toumai, The Oldest Relative of the Human Race

Discoveries relating to the human lineage are extremely exciting and often baffling. This is the case with the recent discovery of what seems to be the oldest member of the human family. A skull found in northern Chad in 2001, has been deemed the earliest relative to the human ever found. Nicknamed Toumai, and discovered by Michel Brunet and his paleontology team, this new category of human has been given the scientific name, Sahelanthropus tchaensis. What makes this skull so definitive is the fact that it dates back approximately 6-7 million years in the earth’s history (Whitfield 2002). Since the discovery there have been anthropologists and paleontologists that have disputed the hominid status of Toumai (Evans 2002), but many, especially those involved in the finding of the skull still believe that they have the oldest relative to the human race we know today.

The kind of attention that comes from discovering a fossil that may challenge pre-existing notions of human lineage is massive. When the findings were first published in “Nature” and “Science”, scientific journals, the news spread like wildfire and every news source from ABC to the BBC had the story covered. A discovery of this magnitude is highly important considering it can alter thoughts about the beginnings of the human line and cause an uproar in the science community in terms of the way human evolution is looked at. BBC News was one of the sources that covered this story when the discovery was made. Their primary article stated, “Scientists say it is the most important discovery in the search for the origins of humankind since the first Australopithecus ‘ape-man’ remains were found in Africa i...

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...s. Toumaï, the ancestor of the human ones.,1-0%402-3328,36-331868,0.html

Evans, Mark., 2002, Ancient Skull’s Species in Dispute. Philadelphia Inquirer.

Gibbons, Ann., 2002, One Scientists Quest for The Origin of our Species. Science, v. 298.

Meek, James., 2002, Monkey or Man? Toumai hailed as our oldest ancestor, is stirring ancient scientific rivalries. Guardian News,,3604,808955,00.html

Noble, Ivan., 2002, Astonishing Skull Unearthed in Africa. BBC News,

Whitfield, John., 2002, Oldest Member of Human Family Found. Nature, Science Update,
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