Breaking the Wall Around the Secrets of Our Origins.
Michel Brunet (born on April 6, 1940) is a French paleontologist and a professor at the Collège de France.Michel Brunet’s big break came in 2001 in Central Africa, during one of his many expeditions searching for fossils: he discovered the skull and several jaws of a late Miocene hominid, whose remains are believed to predate the earliest previously known hominid, Lucy, by more than three million years.
In the 1980s Brunet and Pilbeam matched together and moved to Africa. Their idea was to verify the theory of Yves Coppens that hominids had first rose in the savannas of Eastern Africa. The two paleontologists idea was that the shores of Lake Chad were particularly indicated to work as a magnet for mammals, and maybe also hominids. In 1984 searching begun in Cameroon, but the nine field seasons spent there were discouraging, with no hominids found.
A new opportunity presented itself to Brunet when the government of Chad gave him the permission to conduct researches in the Djurab Desert, that due the Chadian Civil War had long been closed to foreigners.
On January 23, 1995 he spotted a jawbone 3.5 million years old, that he classified as a new species of Australopithecine, the Australopithecus bahrelghazali. Informally he called it Abel, as a tribute to his dead friend Abel Brillanceau. Abel was the first fossil hominid found in Western Africa, radically transforming the discussions on early hominid distribution, that until this discovery was thought to center only in Southern and especially Eastern Africa.
While much discussed, a yet more important find was to be made by Brunet’s team on July 19, 2001; a Chadian student of the mission, Ahounta Djimdoumalbaye, unearthed a nearly complete cranium, from 6 to 7 million years old, nicknamed Toumaï meaning “hope of life” in a Chadian languageby the Chadian President Idriss Déb , and classified by Brunet as the first exemplary of the Sahelanthropus tchadensis.
The discovery brought Brunet worldwide recognition in the field of paleoanthropology; and in 2003 he was awarded the Dan David Prize, a prize given to those whose achievements help better understand the world, or affect it.