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Omo Kibish (Ethiopia)

Early Modern Human Sites of Omo Kibish

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Omo Kibish is the name of one of several sites within an ancient rock formation called Kibish, along the Omo River at the base of the Nkalabong Range in Ethiopia. Kibish is where excavations by Richard Leakey and others recovered Homo sapiens remains as old as 125,000 years before the present. One site in particular, called Kamoya’s Hominid Site (KHS) or Omo Kibish I, contained a nearly complete skeleton of an adult male Homo sapiens sapiens.

Recent Potassium-Argon dating of the volcanic tuffs at Omo Kibish I have suggested to some researchers that the skull dates between 104,000 and 196,000 years ago, and that the likeliest date is closer to 195,000.

If correct, this date makes Omo Kibish one of the earliest known Homo sapiens sites on the planet. John Shea has argued that the human adaptations seen at Omo are similar to those of roughly contemporaneous humans living in at least the northern part of eastern Africa between 50,000 and 250,000 years ago. These issues remain unresolved, however, because fossils of that age are so rare, and because variations in cranial and post-cranial morphology between Omo and such sites as Broken Hill or Elandsfontein are substantial.

Sources

This definition is part of the About.com Guide to the Middle Paleolithic.

de la Torre, Ignacio 2004 Omo Revisited: Evaluating the Technological Skills of Pliocene Hominids. Current Anthropology 45(4):439-466.

McDougall, Ian, Francis H. Brown & John G. Fleagle. 2005. Stratigraphic placement and age of modern humans from Kibish, Ethiopia. Nature 433:733-736.

Rightmire, G. P. 2008 Homo in the Middle Pleistocene: Hypodigms, variation, and species recognition. Evolutionary Anthropology 17(1):8-21.

Shea, John J. In Press The Middle Stone Age archaeology of the Lower Omo Valley Kibish Formation: Excavations, lithic assemblages, and inferred patterns of early Homo sapiens behavior. Journal of Human Evolution In Press.

Thanks to Dar Habel for assistance with this entry. This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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