The man who found the oldest hominid

Earth Pages News has a bias towards investigations of human origins, simply because it is that branch of the geosciences with the most immediate bearing on our readers.  Much of the reported material has been technical.  So, it is pleasing to direct readers to a profile of a palaeoanthropologist who is not a self-publicising diva (Gibbons, A. 2002.  One scientist’s quest for the origin of our species.  Science, v. 298, p. 1708-1711).  Michel Brunet, of the University of Poitiers in France has spent his professional life researching Neogene mammals in as many likely sites to which he and his colleagues could gain access.  It has been a risky business, and at least one of his close colleagues died in the field, and Brunet has had many close encounters with acute danger.  Late in his career he hit the bonanza represented by Sahelanthropus tchadensis  (see Bonanza time for Bonzo, August 2002 Earth Pages News).  Not only did the find take his team far beyond the time frame of previous signs of hominid evolution, but completely outside the usual hunting grounds of eastern Africa to Chad.  That hominids were not exclusive to the area of the East African Rifts had already been demonstrated by Brunet and  David Pilbeam of Harvard by their find of 3.5 Ma australopithecine remains there in 1995.  Time will tell if this seemingly quiet academic is turned into yet another diva by the media circus that inevitably scrums around palaeoanthropologists with big finds.  I reckon he will remain as he is.

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