Controversial '1470' man gets major facelift

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An ancient member of the human family has gotten a digital facelift, and the new mug looks more ape-like than scientists previously thought.

The new reconstruction suggests the large brains and flatter faces characteristic of modern humans did not appear in our lineage until much later in our history.

"For how many years now, people have been using this [skull] and the numbers may not be very meaningful," said Timothy Bromage, an anthropologist at New York University who led the new reconstruction effort.

The skull in question, KNM-ER 1470, is arguably the most controversial fossil in the history of anthropology. When it was first discovered in northern Kenya in 1972, it was initially dated to nearly 3 million years old. Yet the skull—which scientists painstakingly pieced together from hundreds of bone fragments—had a large brain and a flat face, features reminiscent of modern humans but completely unlike any hominid known to exist at the time.

So troublesome was the skull that famed paleo-anthropologist Richard Leakey, the leader of the team that discovered it, once told reporters: "Either we toss out this skull or we toss out our theories of early man. It simply fits no models of human beginnings."

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