July 25, 1996 in Nation/World

10 Million-Year-Old Ape Face Found

Associated Press

Anthropologists have a new snapshot for the human family album, and she’s got a face only a mother could love: gaping, squarish eyes, a protruding mouth and not much of a forehead.

But who looks attractive after being buried for 10 million years?

Ankarapithecus meteai, a 60-pound, fruit-eating ape that roamed the woodlands of central Turkey long before the evolutionary split that separated humans from chimps, actually looks pretty good to people who study human evolution.

For years they’ve had almost no fossil evidence of what happened to humanity’s ancestors between about 18 million years ago and 5 million years ago. Finally, anthropologists excavating near Ankara, Turkey, have discovered a fossil ape face more complete than any known from that period.

“I think people are going to be very surprised when they see what this looks like,” said John Kappelman, a member of the expedition that discovered the fossil.

Kappelman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and researchers from Ankara University in Turkey, the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, and the Natural History Museum in London describe the fossil face in today’s issue of the journal Nature.

The fossil probably didn’t belong to a direct ancestor of modern humans. It was more of a cousin, many times removed. But studying the face will tell anthropologists much more than they now know about the common ancestor of humans and the great apes.

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