A curious smile playing on his face, the eyes and mouth are unmistakably human while the cheekbones and jutting brow say wild animal. Meet Karabo, probably our earliest ancestor and the ‘missing link’ between man and ape – ‘seen’ for the first time thanks to this incredible portrait.
Created by paleo-artist John Gurche, it is based on the remarkably well-preserved skeleton of a boy aged around 13, found in a cave in South Africa.
Karabo – which means ‘the answer’ and is somewhat more catchy than his official name of Australopithecus sediba – stood 4ft 4in and lived nearly two million years ago.
When he was discovered in 2008, the greatest shock for researchers was his human-like hand.
Lee Berger, professor of evolutionary biology at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, said: ‘We’ve never seen that before.
‘It really is undeniable when you lay it in your hand that it’s not a chimp. It looks like a hand capable of making tools. He shares more with humans than anything else ever discovered but is still so primitive and that’s exciting.’
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