Brief communication: Evidence bearing on the status of Homo habilis at Olduvai Gorge

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Abstract

Students of the early hominin career have debated the status of Homo habilis since its discovery in 1960. Today discussion centers on which specimens should be included in the species and what constitutes the holotype. Recent reviews of early Homo suggest that the Olduvai Hominid 8 foot may sample Paranthropus while the OH 7 skull bones, mandible, and hand sample H. habilis. Moreover, some suggest that while H. habilis in Middle Bed I at Olduvai is craniodentally Homo-like, the postcranial skeleton of H. habilis is more like that of Australopithecus. Evidence presented here indicates not only that OH 7 and OH 8 represent H. habilis but also that they come from a single individual. The association of OH 35 with OH 7 and OH 8 is less certain. Morphological, pathological, and taphonomic evidence favors the inclusion of OH 35 in the holotype. However, stratigraphic evidence suggests that OH 35 and OH 8 are not coterminous. With or without OH 35, the holotype of H. habilis ranks as one of the most complete early hominin skeletons and the most complete and functionally informative specimen of early Homo. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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