Selam is the name of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis found in Ethiopia's Afar triangle. The first reports were in Nature on September 21, 2006 by a team led by Zeresenay Alemseged of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. The first and best known A. afarensis discovered in the world was the fossil known as Lucy, found in the Hadar Valley and described by Donald Johansen, Tim White and Yves Coppens. Fragments of 13 hominins were discovered at Hadar including children, and these and subsequent fossils lead researchers to believe A. afarensis lived between 3.0 and 3.7 million years ago.
Selam, sometimes known as the Dikika baby, is the most complete fossil of a juvenile Australopithecus found to date. The find included most of the skull, both shoulders, part of the vertebral column, parts of both knees and legs, parts of the right arm, and several ribs.
Selam is a girl estimated at about 3 years old based on comparisons with modern chimpanzee growth rates. She was found in 2001 in the Rift Valley south of the Awash river, and recovered from the bed of an ancient shallow, slow moving channel that filled about 3.4 million years ago. Researchers believe the Dikika Infant was likely accidentally buried in the channel as an intact corpse. One additional adult A. afarensis is represented at Dikika by a lower jaw and teeth; and a range of different animals, such as extinct forms of elephant, otter, hippo and theropithicus were also found in the channel deposits.
- Zeresenay Alemseged, Fred Spoor, William H. Kimbel, René Bobe, Denis Geraads, Denné Reed & Jonathan G. Wynn. 2006. A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature 443:296-301.
- Bernard Wood. 2006. A precious little bundle. Nature 443:278-281.
- Jonathan G. Wynn, Zeresenay Alemseged, René Bobe, Denis Geraads, Denné Reed & Diana C. Roman. 2006. Geological and palaeontological context of a Pliocene juvenile hominin at Dikika, Ethiopia Nature 443: 332-336.
- Zeresenay Alemseged, Jonathan G. Wynn, William H. Kimbel, Denné Reed, Denis Geraads and René Bobe. 2005. A new hominin from the Basal Member of the Hadar Formation, Dikika, Ethiopia, and its geological context. Journal of Human Evolution 49(4):499-514
Selam: News Stories
- Hominid evolution and development . 2006. Nature. Includes video and podcast of the Dikika Infant discovery.
- Three-million-year-old child unearthed. Natural History Museum, 20 September 2006.
- Earliest Baby Girl Ever Discovered: Australopithecus Afarensis Child Sheds Light On Human Evolution Science Daily September 21, 2006.
Selam in the Blogs
- Did Australopithecines croak? John Hawks. September 20, 2006.
- "Lucys Tochter": Drei Millionen Jahres altes Kinderskelett gefunden. Archaeonews, September 21, 2006.
The photograph on this page is an image of the juvenile Australopithecus afarensis known as the Dikika infant. Credit: Zeresenay Alemseged and Copyright Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultrual Heritages (ARCCH).