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Two new fossils just rewrote the timeline of human evolution — here's what it looks like now

Kelly Dickerson

A 2.8 million-year-old jawbone fossil unearthed in the desert of Ethiopia, and another 1.8 million-year-old jaw that has been digitally reconstructed, have just completely changed what we know about the origin of modern humans.

The fossil is the oldest known representation of the genus Homo and could belong to a new species within the lineage, according to research published on Wednesday in the journal Science. The additional study of the 1.8 million-year-old jaw was published in Nature. 

Previously, scientists thought the Homo genus didn't split off from the more primitive Australopithecus species — which the famous "Lucy" fossil belongs to — until about 2.3 million years ago. This new fossil pushes that date back to at least 2.8 million years ago. 

This is strengthened by the study of the younger jaw, which  suggests that the more advanced Homo habilis  had a surprisingly primitive jaw, and so may have originated earlier than once thought.

Modern humans first appeared only 200,000 years ago.

Vocativ created this graphic showing how the fossil has changed what we know about the timeline of the origin of humankind. Read the full story on Vocativ. (Vocativ)

last_final_human_fossil_timeline 02

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