Current problems in dating palaeolithic cave art
The oldest remains of this species, belonging to the subspecies kadabba, are from Ethiopian rocks dated at between 5.2 and 5.8 million years old.
More recent Ardepithecus ramidus remains are dated at 4.4 million years.
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Now we know, through a combination of new fossil finds and molecular biology, that humans and chimpanzees diverged as little as 7 million years ago, and that our own lineage is "bushy", with many different species in existence at the same time.
Michel Brunet's team describe Sahelanthropus as a hominid, for reasons including the shape and angle of the face and skull, and its dentition.
Not all scientists agree with this, saying that the position of the suggests it was not a true biped, and that features of its dentition and skull are reminiscent of chimpanzees.
And even once the antiquity of the remains was established, many scientists refused to accept that Neandertals could be closely related to modern humans, depicting them instead as brutish and apelike.
This interpretation reflected the prevailing prejudices about human ancestry, and was supported by misinterpretation of the remains of the "Old Man of La Chapelle", whose skeleton was warped by arthritis.
Our view of our evolutionary past has changed as social attitudes have changed.