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In Photos: A Nearly Complete Human Ancestor Skull

Nearly perfect specimen

an image of a nearly complete australopithecus skull

(Image credit: Dale Omori, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History)

A nearly complete Australopithecus anamensis skull has been unearthed in Ethiopia, and it dates to 3.8 million years ago.

Reconstructed face

reconstruction of face of australopithecus

(Image credit: Photograph(s) by Matt Crow, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Facial reconstruction by John Gurche made possible through generous contribution by Susan and George Klein.)

The new skull specimen, dubbed "MRD," allowed anthropologists to put a face to the relative of the iconic "Lucy" species.

Ancient river delta

reconstruction and fossil skull of australopithecus side-by-side

(Image credit: Photograph(s) by Matt Crow, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Facial reconstruction by John Gurche made possible through generous contribution by Susan and George Klein.)

A view of the skull on one side, along with the reconstructed face on the other.

Ancient river delta

cranium from australopithecus in a rocky river delta

(Image credit: photographed by Yohannes Haile-Selassie, PhD. Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.)

The fossil skull was found in two pieces in an ancient river delta in the Godaya Valley of the Afar region of Ethiopia. The fossil was buried in sand.

Amazing find

yohannes haile-selassie, phd with the cranium of australopithecus

(Image credit: Photograph courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.)

Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a paleoanthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, uncovered the fossil in February 2016. Here, Haile-Selassi poses with the cranium.

Another view

skull of australopithecus held by its discoverer

(Image credit: Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a paleoanthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History)

Another view of Haile-Selassie holding the cranium.

Similar to "Lucy"

reconstruction of australopithecus

(Image credit: Photograph(s) by Matt Crow, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Facial reconstruction by John Gurche made possible through generous contribution by Susan and George Klein.)

Australopithecus anamensis had a face that was quite similar to the "Lucy" species, Australopithecus afarensis, but with some key differences.

Subtle differences

australopithecus amananensis reconstruction

(Image credit: Photograph(s) by Matt Crow, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Facial reconstruction by John Gurche made possible through generous contribution by Susan and George Klein.)

The hominin's face was not quite as massive and rugged as Lucy's, but it had larger teeth than A. afarensis. MRD's jaw protruded, which is different from the relatively flat faces of modern apes.

Size of a chimpanzee

fossil skull of australopithecus amananensis

(Image credit: Photograph(s) by Dale Omori, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.)

The ancient hominin would have been about the size of a chimpanzee. 

Another view

skull of australopithecus amanaensis

(Image credit: Photograph(s) by Dale Omori, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.)

Another view of the ancient fossil cranium.