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FOSSIL HUNTER Alan Walker (foreground) and two colleagues excavate the bone bed at Allia Bay, where several anamensis fossils have been recovered. The bone bed appears as a dark band about 18 inches thick at the top of the trench.

The significance of these exciting discoveries is now the center of an active debate.

The fossils of anamensis that we have identified should also provide some answers in the long-standing debate over whether early Australopithecus species lived in wooded areas or on the open savanna. The outcome of this discussion has important implications: for many years, paleoanthropologists have accepted that upright-walking behavior originated on the savanna, where it most likely provided benefits such as keeping the hot sun off the back or freeing hands for carrying food. Yet our evidence suggests that the earliest bipedal hominid known to date lived at least part of the time in wooded areas. The discoveries of the past several years represent a remarkable spurt in the sometimes painfully slow process of uncovering human evolutionary past. But clearly there is still much more to learn. S3

Australopithecus ramidus, a New Species of Early Hominid from Aramis, Ethiopia. Tim D. White, Gen Suwa and Berhane Asfaw in Nature, Vol. 371, pages 306-312; September 22, 1994. New Four-Million-Year-Old Hominid Species from Kanapoi and Allia Bay, Kenya. Meave G. Leakey, Craig S. Feibel, Ian McDougall and Alan Walker in Nature, Vol. 376, pages 565-571; August 17, 1995. From Lucy to Language. Donald C. Johanson and Blake Edgar. Simon & Schuster, 1996.

The Earliest Known Australopithecus, A. anamensis. C. V. Ward, M. G. Leakey and A. Walker in Journal of Human Evolution, Vol. 41, pages 255-368; 2001.

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