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An ancestor's unusual shape.

In 1924, anthropologists working at the Sudanese site of Singa found the upper portion of a skull embedded in rock along the Nile River. Some investigators consider the Singa skull an example of an anatomically modern human ancestral to Khoisan hunter-gatherers still living in Africa. Others argue that the specimen represents a more primitive, or archaic, form of modern humans that lived around 100,000 years ago.

New evidence supports the latter view, reports Christopher B. Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, England. Measurements of the Singa skull's shape more closely match those from archaic Homo sapiens fossils than those from anatomically modern humans, Stringer asserts. Preliminary efforts to date two animal teeth found in the same sediment as the Singa skull place them between 97,000 and 160,000 years old.

Some type of disease may have altered the shape of the Singa skull and thus misled earlier investigators, Stringer contends. The brain case appears low for an archaic human and shows significant widening toward the middle. Computed tomography (CT) scans reveal thickened bony tissue in central skull bones that may have contributed to the specimens shape, he maintains.

The right side of the fossil sports a small hole where the bones of the middle ear normally lie, Stringer notes. He considers this an inborn defect.

"This fossil has unusual features, and we need to understand its pathologies much better," Stringer says.
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Title Annotation:research on the Singa skull found in 1924 indicates that it is an archaic ancestor to modern humans
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 1, 1993
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