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Bones give peek at key evolutionary period
by Staff Writers
Philadelphia (UPI) Jun 16, 2011

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The remains of a child from about 108,000 years ago should shed light on a key period in human evolution, a University of Pennsylvania archaeologist said.

A team led by Harold Dibble, a curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, unearthed the child's skull and upper body in Morocco last year.

Even though the skull hasn't been released to the scientific community and the team hasn't published any peer-reviewed papers, information about the find will be aired on television by National Geographic, which funded the dig, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday.

By analyzing teeth, Dibble's team estimated the child was 6- to 8 years old. Dibble named the remains "Bouchra," Arabic for "good news," the newspaper said. While the name is feminine, Dibble said it more likely is a boy.

In the period in which archaeologists say the child lived, modern Homo sapiens had emerged in Africa and begun to spread to the Middle East while Neanderthals populated parts of Eurasia.

"This will fit into the global debate on how and where and when modern humans arose," Dibble said.

Another archaeologist, Curtis Marean of Arizona State University, said Bouchra "joins a very small sample of hominid remains in Africa from that period. We don't know a lot about human populations at that time."

Marean told the Inquirer the child's age is of scientific interest because "as far as I know, this is the first juvenile from that crucial time period."

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