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  • An Erratum to this article was published on 15 August 2002

Abstract

The search for the earliest fossil evidence of the human lineage has been concentrated in East Africa. Here we report the discovery of six hominid specimens from Chad, central Africa, 2,500 km from the East African Rift Valley. The fossils include a nearly complete cranium and fragmentary lower jaws. The associated fauna suggest the fossils are between 6 and 7 million years old. The fossils display a unique mosaic of primitive and derived characters, and constitute a new genus and species of hominid. The distance from the Rift Valley, and the great antiquity of the fossils, suggest that the earliest members of the hominid clade were more widely distributed than has been thought, and that the divergence between the human and chimpanzee lineages was earlier than indicated by most molecular studies.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Chadian Authorities (Ministère de l'Education Nationale de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, Université de N'djaména, CNAR). We extend gratitude for their support to the French Ministries, Ministère Français de l'Education Nationale (Faculté des Sciences, Université de Poitiers), Ministère de la Recherche (CNRS), Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (Direction de la Coopération Scientifique, Universitaire et de Recherche, Paris, and SCAC Ambassade de France à N'djaména), to the Région Poitou-Charentes, the Département de la Vienne, the Association pour le Prix scientifique Philip Morris, and also to the Armée Française (MAM and Epervier) for logistic support. For giving us the opportunity to work with their collections, we are grateful to the National Museum of Ethiopia, the National Museum of Kenya, the Peabody Museum and Harvard University, the Institute of Human Origins and the University of California. Special thanks to Scanner-IRM Poitou Charentes (P. Chartier and F. Perrin), for industrial scanner to EMPA (A. Flisch Ing. HTL) and to Multimedia Laboratorium-Computer Department, University of Zurich-Irchel (P. Stucki). Many thanks to all our colleagues and friends for their help and discussion, and particularly to F. Clark Howell, A. Garaudel, Y. Haile-Selassie, D. Johanson, W. Kimbel, M. G. Leakey, D. Lieberman, R. Macchiarelli, M. Pickford, B. Senut, G. Suwa, T. White and Lubaka. We especially thank all the other MPFT members who joined us for the field missions, and V. Bellefet, S. Riffaut and J.-C. Bertrand for technical support. We are most grateful to G. Florent for administrative guidance. We dedicate this article to J. D. Clark. All authors are members of the MPFT.

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Affiliations

  1. *Faculté des Sciences et CNRS UMR 6046, Université de Poitiers, 40 Avenue du Recteur Pineau, 86022 Poitiers Cedex, France

    • Michel Brunet
    • , Franck Guy
    • , Andossa Likius
    • , Cécile Blondel
    • , Jean-Renaud Boisserie
    • , Louis De Bonis
    • , Pierre Fronty
    • , Thomas Lehmann
    • , Fabrice Lihoreau
    • , Gildas Merceron
    • , Guy Mouchelin
    • , Olga Otero
    • , Xavier Valentin
    • , Patrick Vignaud
    •  & Laurent Viriot
  2. †Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Franck Guy
    •  & David Pilbeam
  3. ‡Université de N'Djaména, BP 1117, N'Djaména, Tchad

    • Hassane Taisso Mackaye
    •  & Andossa Likius
  4. §Centre National d'Appui à la Recherche, BP 1228, N'Djaména, Tchad

    • Djimdoumalbaye Ahounta
    • , Alain Beauvilain
    • , Gongdibé Fanone
    •  & Adoum Mahamat
  5. Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, CNRS UMR 5554, Université de Montpellier II, Place E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France

    • Hervé Bocherens
    •  & Jean Sudre
  6. ¶Collège de France, 3 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France

    • Yves Coppens
  7. #Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle et CNRS UMR 8569, rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France

    • Jean Dejax
    • , Christiane Denys
    • , Véra Eisenmann
    • , Jean-Claude Rage
    •  & Pascal Tassy
  8. Centre de Géochimie de la Surface, CNRS UMR 7517, Université Louis Pasteur, 1 rue Blessig, 67084 Strasbourg, France

    • Philippe Duringer
    •  & Mathieu Schuster
  9. **Centre National de Recherche Scientifique UPR 2147, 44 rue de l'Amiral Mouchez, 75014 Paris, France

    • Denis Geraads
  10. ††Centres des Sciences de la Terre, CNRS UMR 5125, Université Claude Bernard, 27-43 Bd du 11 novembre 1918, 69622 Villeurbanne, France

    • Antoine Louchart
  11. ‡‡Museo de Ciencias Naturales, C/Guttierez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, España

    • Pablo Pelaez Campomanes
  12. §§Anthropologisches Institut/Multimedia Laboratorium, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Winterthurer Str. 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland

    • Marcia Ponce De Leon
    •  & Christoph Zollikofer
  13. Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, Université de Poitiers, rue de la Milétrie, 86021 Poitiers Cedex, France

    • Michel Sapanet
  14. ¶¶Centre National de Recherche Scientifique UMR 162, et Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 4 place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France

    • Antoine Zazzo

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Michel Brunet.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature00879

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