Washington, August 23 : New studies by multiple international research teams have determined that the world's first known modern human, who lived around 200,000 years ago, retained a few primitive characteristics associated with Neanderthals.
According to a report in Discovery News, "Omo I," as the researchers refer to the earliest known human, would probably have been considered healthy-looking and handsome by today's standards, despite the touch of Neanderthal.
"From the size of the preserved bones, we estimated that Omo I was tall and slender, most likely around 5'10" tall and about 155 pounds," University of New Mexico anthropologist Osbjorn Pearson, told Discovery News.
Another, later fossil was also recently found. It too belonged to a "moderately tall - around 5'9" - and slender individual.
"Taken together, the remains show that these early modern humans were much like the people in southern Ethiopia and the southern Sudan today," Pearson said.
Parts of the Omo I skeleton were first excavated in 1967 by a team from the Kenya National Museums under the direction of Richard Leakey.
Leakey and his colleagues unearthed two other skeletons, one of which has received little attention.
Two of the three skeletons found at the site have been a literal bone of contention among scientists over the past four decades. Reliable dating techniques for such early periods did not exist in the late 60's, and the researchers could not agree upon the identity of the two skeletons.
From 1999 to the present, at least two other major expeditions to the southern Ethiopian site - called the Kibish Formation - have taken place, with the goal of solving the mysteries and learning more about what the area was like 200,000 years ago.
The ordeals proved successful, as the scientists have recovered new bones for Omo I, some of which perfectly fit into place with the remains Leakey unearthed over 40 years ago.
Several scientists analyzed the bones, including a very detailed, comparative look at the shoulder bone by French paleontologist Jean-Luc Voisin.
They concluded that, without a doubt, Omo I represents an anatomically modern human, with bones in the arms, hands and ankles somewhat resembling those of other, earlier human-like species.
"Most of the anatomical features of Omo are like modern humans. Only a few features are similar to more primitive hominids, including Neanderthals and Homo erectus," explained John Fleagle, professor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University in New York.
"Omo II is more primitive in its cranial anatomy, and shares more features with Homo erectus and fewer with modern humans," he added.