|Common name||Gawis cranium|
|Species||Homo erectus/Homo sapiens|
|Age||200,000 - 500,000|
|Date discovered||February 16, 2006|
|Discovered by||Asahmed Humet|
The Gawis cranium is a portion of a fossil hominid skull discovered on February 16, 2006 near the drainage of Gawis, a tributary of the Awash River in the Afar Depression, Ethiopia. Despite volcanic ash layers which hold the key to dating, the cranium is dated very sparsely between 200,000 and 500,000 years ago due to unfortunate taphonomic properties.
The 2006 discovery was reported by Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Project, who is based at the Stone Age Institute and IU Bloomington's CRAFT research center. Semaw suspects the skull could be a transitional fossil that fills a gap in human evolutionary origins. Its appearance is described as intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.
Discovery and significance
The skull was discovered by Asahmed Humet, a member of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project. Asahmed Humet found in small erosion gully a recently resurfaced fossil. The erosion gully empty to the Gawis river drainage basin in the Afar Region, 300 miles northeast of Addis Ababa. The skull is a nearly complete cranium of what is believed to be a Middle Pleistocene human ancestor. While different from a modern human, the braincase, upper face and jaw of the cranium have unmistakable anatomical evidence that belong to human ancestry.
Significant archaeological collections of stone tools and numerous fossil animals were also found at the site.
Gawis is in the Gona Research Project study area, which is in the Awash River Valley. Immediately to the east of Gona, also located along the Awash and one of its tributaries is the site of Hadar, where U.S. scientist Donald Johanson found the 3.2 million year old remains of an Australopithecus afarensis, known as Lucy, in 1974. The Middle Awash, site of many other hominid discoveries, is to the south.
In addition to the Gawis cranium, the Gona project area is where the world's oldest stone tools (2.6 million years old) were discovered, as well as fossils of Ardipithecus ramidus dated to approximately 4.5 million years ago.
- Human evolution
- List of fossil sites (with link directory)
- List of hominina (hominid) fossils (with images)