|New light on old: Prof Alan Morris was part of the team that placed the Hofmeyr skull in history|
The 24 December 2007 edition of Time magazine has listed the Hofmeyr skull finding among its top 10 scientific discoveries of 2007.
Titled Man's Migration out of Africa, the article came in ninth on the list and eighth on their website.
It's significant that the Hofmeyr skull, found in the Eastern Cape in 1954, was dated only early in 2007 by an international team of scientists. That team included UCT's Professor Alan Morris (anatomy).
The skull revealed the first fossil evidence that modern humans left Africa between 65 000 and 25 000 years ago. Testing the levels of radiation in mud that had filled the skull, they estimated it to be around 36 000 years old and that it matched skulls found in Europe, eastern Asia and Australia, in age and appearance. This underscores the theory that modern man originated in sub-Saharan Africa and migrated from there.
"Sometimes we have heritage gems stored in old collections that need to be studied," Morris said. "The Hofmeyr skull was finally dated by new technologies and it was the date that gave us its importance. I'm sure there is more to discover just by properly examining what we already have in the collections.
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