After an unsuccessful day of excavation in Northern Kenya, archeologist John Ekusi decided to roll a cigarette. Ekusi’s team shooed him ahead, leading him to stumble on an exceptional find: an ape skull dating back 13 million years.
The fossil was founded by a group led by De Anza College professor Isaiah Nengo. While the head is no larger than a lemon, the knowledge it holds is significant.
According to The Leakey Foundation, the skulls gives insight into what apes and humans may have looked like in the past.
Intense X-rays of the skull showed teeth, a brain cavity and inner ears similar to humans and primates today. Researchers were even able to determine that the ape was just over a year old during the time of its death.
The foundation also stated that, along with being able to assign an age, the teeth revealed that this is a new species.
The skull is the most complete extinct ape skull in the fossil record and named Alesi - based off of the local word for ancestor.
Dr. Nengo told The Leakey Foundation that, “the discovery of Alesi thus helps to confirm that the common ancestor of humans and apes evolved in Africa.”
The scientific journal Nature has published Dr. Nengo’s findings in detail.