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This is the face of a member of a proto-human species called MRD (Photo: CMNH / MattCrow / SWNS)

The face an ancient ancestor who roamed the Earth 3.8 million years ago has been reconstructed from a remarkably preserved skull.

Scientists simulated the face of a male member of an ape-like species called Australopithecus anamensis that’s the earliest known hominid, a biological family which includes modern people.

The proto-human was dated from minerals in layers of volcanic rocks nearby.

Named MRD, it belonged to an adult male. It was identified from its jaw and canine-like teeth.

Its skull was kept intact inside the sandy deposits of a delta where a river entered a lake.

‘It’s good to finally be able to put a face to the name,’ said Dr Stephanie Melillo of the Max Plank Institute For Evolutionary Anthropology, co-author of a report about the reconstruction.

This is MRD’s skull (Photo: CMNH / MattCrow / SWNS)

Fossilised pollen grains and chemical remains of plant and algae in the lake and delta sediments provide clues about the ancient environmental conditions.

They show the watershed of the lake was mostly dry but also show there were forested areas on the shores of the delta or along the side the river that fed the delta and lake system.

Co-author Professor Naomi Levin, of Michigan University, said: ‘MRD lived near a large lake in a region that was dry.

‘We’re eager to conduct more work in these deposits to understand the environment of the MRD specimen, the relationship to climate change and how it affected human evolution, if at all.’

Until now, A. anamensis was only known from partial upper and lower jaw bones, isolated teeth, a small part of the braincase and a few limb bones.

The skull used in the reconstruction was dug up in the Woranso-Mille area of Ethiopia where many hominin bones have been unearthed.

The remains bridge the gap between A. anamensis and Lucy, one of the world’s most famous fossils.

The cranium was discovered in 2016 in Ethiopia (Photo: CMNH / MattCrow / SWNS)

She belonged to a species called Australopithecus afarensis – and rewrote the history of humanity.

When she was discovered in 1974 she was believed to be our oldest direct ancestor Other hominins pre-dating her have since emerged – including A. anamensis.

Males of both species grew to about 5ft and weighed about 100lbs. The females were about 3dt5in tall and weighed around 62lbs.

A. anamensis is the oldest known member of the genus Australopithecus. Our own genus, Homo, is widely thought to have evolved from this group.

The relationship is crucial to understanding where we all ultimately come from.

Dr Haile-Selassie added: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted the rest of the cranium. It was a eureka moment and a dream come true.’

Professor Fred Spoor, an expert in anatomy at London’s Natural History Museum, said the skull is ‘a great addition to the fossil record’.

Spoor, who was not involved in the study, added: ‘This cranium looks set to become another celebrated icon of human evolution.’

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