233,000 years! Humanity is much older than assumed

Akhil Aravind

Many of you have heard about Omo fossils, which are believed to be the oldest modern human remains. Earlier it was thought to be 195,000 years old, but the latest research published on Nature revealed that Omo is actually 233,000 years old.

The fossils were found in 1967 at a place called Kibish Omo in Ethiopia while a group of geologists was analyzing the East African Rift zone. At first, they were confused with what to do next since it was quite a small bone piece and hard to tell whether it was a human’s. Later the archeologists were able to fit it into shape and identified that the fossil belonged to the homo sapiens species.

To identify the age more accurately, a group of scientists again collected pumice samples from Shala volcano and ground them to sizes less than millimeters. Then they subjected it to chemical analysis before comparing it with the ash collected from the Omo fossils. Surprisingly, they matched.

Now they had to find out when the Shala Volcano erupted in the past 300,000 years. A team led by Céline Vidal, a volcanologist at the University of Cambridge, analyzed a layer of ash from a volcanic eruption. He analyzed the activity of the Shala Volcano and formed a timeline of its eruption throughout its history, and they found out that the eruption took place 233,000 years ago. Their findings direct the ash to be 33,000 years older than previously thought. This means that Omo must have died during the eruption.

Hence, Omo proved that modern humans lived in eastern Africa as early as 195,000 years ago. But now, it has been revealed that they were living there 33,000 years earlier than we presumed.


  1. https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/homosapiens
  2. https://www.geog.cam.ac.uk/people/vidal/
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/d44148-022-00020-z

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