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


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.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    Australopithecus africanus, the man-ape of South Africa. Nature 115, 195–199 (1925)

  2. 2.

    New Perspectives on Ape and Human Evolution 9–100 (Stichting voor Psychobiologie, Amsterdam, 1972)

  3. 3.

    Le singe, l'Afrique et l'Homme (Fayard, Paris, 1983)

  4. 4.

    et al. New hominin genus from eastern Africa shows diverse middle Pliocene lineages. Nature 410, 433–440 (2001)

  5. 5.

    , , & New four-million-year-old hominid species from Kanapoi and Allia Bay, Kenya. Nature 376, 565–571 (1995)

  6. 6.

    , & Australopithecus ramidus, a new species of hominid from Aramis, Ethiopia. Nature 371, 306–312 (1994)

  7. 7.

    Late Miocene hominids from the Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature 412, 178–181 (2001)

  8. 8.

    et al. First hominid from the Miocene (Lukeino Formation, Kenya). C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris 332, 137–144 (2001)

  9. 9.

    , , & 40Ar/39Ar geochronology and paleomagnetic stratigraphy of the Lukeino and lower Chemeron Formations at Tabarin and Kapcheberek, Tugen Hills, Kenya. J. Hum. Evol. 42, 117–140 (2002)

  10. 10.

    et al. The first australopithecine 2500 kilometres west of the Rift Valley (Chad). Nature 378, 273–275 (1995)

  11. 11.

    et al. Australopithecus bahrelghazali, une nouvelle espèce d'Hominidé ancien de la région de Koro Toro (Tchad). C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris 322, 907–913 (1996)

  12. 12.

    et al. Geology and palaeontology of the Upper Miocene Toros-Menalla hominid locality, Chad. Nature 418, 152–155 (2002)

  13. 13.

    & Numerical age control for the Miocene–Pliocene succession at Lothagam, a hominoid-bearing sequence in the northern Kenya Rift. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 156, 731–745 (1999)

  14. 14.

    & A new Late Miocene hominoid from Kenya: Samburupithecus kiptalami gen. et sp. nov. C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris 325, 823–829 (1998)

  15. 15.

    & The face and the mandible of Ouranopithecus macedoniensis: description of new specimens and comparisons. J. Hum. Evol. 24, 469–491 (1993)

  16. 16.

    New hominoid skull material from the Miocene of Pakistan. Nature 295, 232–234 (1982)

  17. 17.

    & A new cranium of Dryopithecus from Rudabanya, Hungary. J. Hum. Evol. 41, 689–700 (2001)

  18. 18.

    The Cranium and Maxillary Dentition of Australopithecus (Zinjanthropus) boisei, Olduvai Gorge (Cambridge Univ. Press, London, 1967)

  19. 19.

    , & Cranial morphology of Australopithecus afarensis; A comparative study based on a composite reconstruction of the adult skull. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 64, 337–388 (1984)

  20. 20.

    , & Morphology of Australopithecus anamensis from Kanapoi and Allia Bay, Kenya. J. Hum. Evol. 41, 235–368 (2001)

  21. 21.

    , & The first skull and other new discoveries of Australopithecus afarensis at Hadar, Ethiopia. Nature 368, 449–451 (1994)

  22. 22.

    Koobi Fora Research Project: Hominid Cranial Remains Vol. 4 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1991)

  23. 23.

    & A molecular time scale for vertebrate evolution. Nature 392, 917–920 (1998)

  24. 24.

    in The Primate Fossil Record (ed. Hartwig, W.) 303–310 (Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 2002)

  25. 25.

    Systematic assessment of a maxilla of Homo from Hadar, Ethiopia. Am. J. Phys. Anthop. 103, 235–262 (1997)

  26. 26.

    Intra-species Variation among the Great-Apes: Implications for Taxonomy of Fossil Hominoids Thesis, Harvard Univ. (1992)

  27. 27.

    , & Temporal trends and metric variation in the mandibles and dentition of A. afarensis. J. Hum. Evol. 39, 23–55 (2000)

  28. 28.

    Sexual dimorphism in the face of Australopithecus africanus. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 108, 97–127 (1999)

Download references


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.

Author information


  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


  1. Search for Michel Brunet in:

  2. Search for Franck Guy in:

  3. Search for David Pilbeam in:

  4. Search for Hassane Taisso Mackaye in:

  5. Search for Andossa Likius in:

  6. Search for Djimdoumalbaye Ahounta in:

  7. Search for Alain Beauvilain in:

  8. Search for Cécile Blondel in:

  9. Search for Hervé Bocherens in:

  10. Search for Jean-Renaud Boisserie in:

  11. Search for Louis De Bonis in:

  12. Search for Yves Coppens in:

  13. Search for Jean Dejax in:

  14. Search for Christiane Denys in:

  15. Search for Philippe Duringer in:

  16. Search for Véra Eisenmann in:

  17. Search for Gongdibé Fanone in:

  18. Search for Pierre Fronty in:

  19. Search for Denis Geraads in:

  20. Search for Thomas Lehmann in:

  21. Search for Fabrice Lihoreau in:

  22. Search for Antoine Louchart in:

  23. Search for Adoum Mahamat in:

  24. Search for Gildas Merceron in:

  25. Search for Guy Mouchelin in:

  26. Search for Olga Otero in:

  27. Search for Pablo Pelaez Campomanes in:

  28. Search for Marcia Ponce De Leon in:

  29. Search for Jean-Claude Rage in:

  30. Search for Michel Sapanet in:

  31. Search for Mathieu Schuster in:

  32. Search for Jean Sudre in:

  33. Search for Pascal Tassy in:

  34. Search for Xavier Valentin in:

  35. Search for Patrick Vignaud in:

  36. Search for Laurent Viriot in:

  37. Search for Antoine Zazzo in:

  38. Search for Christoph Zollikofer in:

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michel Brunet.

About this article

Publication history






By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.