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Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, November 23, 2009

'Ardi' discoverer to speak at Indiana University

Nov. 23, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Anthropologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie, who found the first fragment of the newly reported Ardipithecus ramidus skeleton nicknamed "Ardi," will talk about the discovery and its implications at Indiana University Bloomington.

Yohannes Haile-Selassie

Photo by Liz Russell

Yohannes Haile-Selassie in the field

He will speak on "Ardi: Discovering and Interpreting Ardipithecus" at 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 (Tuesday) in Whittenberger Auditorium of the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St. The lecture is sponsored by the Stone Age Institute and Indiana University's CRAFT Research Center.

Haile-Selassie is curator and head of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University.

"This is one of the most important fossil hominid discoveries of our lifetime and gives us critical evidence about the origins of upright walking and what our early ancestors looked like," said Nicholas Toth, co-director, with Kathy Schick, of the Stone Age Institute. "This is a great opportunity for people to hear, first hand, about the circumstances of the Ardi discovery and analysis and get a feel for the rigors and excitement of fieldwork in the Afar region of Ethiopia."

Haile-Selassie is a member of the research team that discovered and analyzed a 4.4 million-year-old partial skeleton of the early hominid ancestor Ardipithecus ramidus in the Afar Rift region of Ethiopia. Results of the 17-year investigation were published Oct. 2 in a special issue of the journal Science, opening a new chapter on human evolution by extending knowledge to a period only a few million years after the human line diverged from that leading to chimpanzees.

It was Haile-Selassie who, in November 1994, found the first piece -- a hand bone -- of the female skeleton that would become known as Ardi. The partial skeleton, including the skull with teeth, arms, hands, pelvis, legs and feet, was recovered through excavations between 1994 and 1997.

The research team found a total of 110 hominid fossil specimens representing at least 36 different individuals, along with fossils of dozens of animal and plant species. The results are helping scientists discern in greater detail the basic steps in the evolution of modern humans from ancient apes.

The Stone Age Institute, directed by Indiana University Department of Anthropology professors Schick and Toth, also carries out anthropological field research in Ethiopia's Afar triangle. In 2005, Institute researcher Sileshi Semaw and colleagues reported the discovery of 4.5 million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus skeletal fossils, including parts of jaw bones, teeth, part of a toe bone and intact finger bones. The fossils were retrieved from the Gona Study Area in northern Ethiopia.

The Stone Age Institute is an independent research center dedicated to the archaeological study of human origins and technological development. It has strong ties with Indiana University, especially CRAFT (the Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology) and the Human Evolutionary Studies Program.