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3.3 Million-Year-Old Fossil Reveals the Antiquity of the Human Spine

Portions of human skeletal structure were established millions of years earlier than previously thought, Mizzou researcher finds

 


ResearcherSelam, possesses the most complete spinal column of any early fossil human relative, and her vertebral bones, neck and rib cage are mainly intact. Photo courtesy of Zeray Alemseged, University of Chicago

Selam, possesses the most complete spinal column of any early fossil human relative, and her vertebral bones, neck and rib cage are mainly intact. Photo courtesy of Zeray Alemseged, University of Chicago
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Story posted: May 22, 2017

By: Jeff Sossamon

COLUMBIA, Mo. – For more than 3 million years, Selam lay silent and still. Eager to tell her story, the almost perfect fossil skeleton of a 2 1/2 year-old toddler was discovered at Dikika, Ethiopia—and she had a lot to say. An international research team slowly chipped away at the sandstone surrounding Selam at the National Museums of Ethiopia to reveal something remarkable—even though millions of years have passed, she’s a lot like us. Selam, which means “peace” in the Ethiopian Amharic language, was an early human relative from the species Australopithecus afarensis—the same species as the famous Lucy skeleton. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, indicate that Selam possesses the most complete spinal column of any early fossil human relative, and her vertebral bones, neck and rib cage are mainly intact. This new research demonstrates that portions of the human skeletal structure were established millions of years earlier than previously thought.