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His primary research involves human evolution in all its dimensions and he and his colleagues are credited with the discovery in Ethiopia in 1995 of perhaps the oldest known human ancestor, , dated to 4.4 million years ago.
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The “Neanderthal Men” associated with the site became one of the earliest challenges to Darwin’s view of human evolution.Of course, at the time, there was virtually no known fossil record, so Darwin could only predict that someday, some "future geologist" would find fossils connecting modern apes with modern humans via an ancient undiscovered common ancestor.These predictions proved to be remarkably accurate.Neanderthals were interpreted by some as pathological, whereas others saw them as an evolutionary side branch, and yet others as direct human ancestors.The Neanderthal debate persisted for nearly 150 years, and was only recently resolved by a powerful combination of well-dated African fossils and comparisons of ancient Neanderthal DNA with DNA of modern humans.The evidence of Lucy and the many other fossils of the species that she represents shows that these creatures were neither chimps nor humans, nor were they halfway between modern chimpanzee and human, but rather had their own unique characteristics.This uniqueness is confirmed by evidence of the archaeological record as well as geochronology.Darwin got it mostly right By Tim White The 1859 book “On the Origin of Species” is notorious for Darwin's evasion of the subject of human evolution.In it, he wrote only: "much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history." However, Darwin more directly discussed the subject of human evolution in his 1871 treatise, “The Descent of Man” In that book, he clearly laid out a prediction that human ancestors would be found in Africa.The molecular evidence also confirms this in the living endpoints of two very different evolutionary trajectories.Although Darwin’s hypothesis on the location of the evolution of man has proven correct, Darwin's hypothesis about the sequence in which human characteristics arose during our evolution has been rejected.