Richard Leakey, who discovered the fossils, presented the skull—which he estimated to be 2.8 million years old and which was given the official designation of KNM-ER 1470, as the greatest discovery in the history of anthropology—and thus aroused an immense reaction. According to Leakey, this creature, with a small skull volume like that of Australopithecus and with a human-type face, was the missing link between Australopithecus and man.
However, it was later realized that the human facial features of KNM-ER 1470, which had appeared on the covers of various scientific journals, were errors, made perhaps even deliberately in assembling the skull fragments. Professor Tim Bromage, who conducted research into the anatomy of the human face, summarized his findings produced with the aid of computer simulations in 1992:
When it [KNM-ER 1470] was first reconstructed, the face was fitted to the cranium in an almost vertical position, much like the flat faces of modern humans. But recent studies of anatomical relationships show that in life the face must have jutted out considerably, creating an ape-like aspect, rather like the faces of Australopithecus.205
... its relatively robustly constructed face, flattish naso-alveolar clivus, (recalling australopithecine dished faces), low maximum cranial width (on the temporals), strong canine juga and large molars (as indicated by remaining roots) are all relatively primitive traits which ally the specimen with members of the taxon A. africanus..... KNM-ER 1470, like other early Homo specimens, shows many morphological characteristics in common with gracile australopithecines that are not shared with later specimens of the genus Homo.206
C. Loring Brace from Michigan University arrived at the following conclusion regarding the KNM-ER 1470 skull, based on analyses of its jaw and teeth structure:
. . . from the size of the palate and the expansion of the area allotted to molar roots, it would appear that ER 1470 retained a fully Australopithecus -sized face and dentition.207
John Hopkins University Professor of paleoanthropology Alan Walker, who has examined the KNM-ER 1470 skull at least as much as Leakey, maintains that like Homo habilis or H. rudolfensis, the creature should not be classified as Homo but should be included in the classification Australopithecus. 208
205 Tim Bromage, New Scientist, Vol. 133, 1992, pp. 38-41.
206 J. E. Cronin, N. T. Boaz, C. B. Stringer, Y. Rak, "Tempo and Mode in Hominid Evolution," Nature, vol. 292, 1981, pp. 117.
207 C. L. Brace, H. Nelson, N. Korn, M. L. Brace, Atlas of Human Evolution, 2nd Edition, New York: Rinehart and Wilson, 1979.
208 Alan Walker, Scientific American, Vol. 239 (2), 1978, p. 54.