In 1972, a fossil was discovered in East Rudolf that would lead to debates in paleoanthropology. This was a complete skull, lacking only the lower jaw, but broken into some 300 parts, which were assembled by Richard Leakey and his wife, Meave. It was later sent to the Kenya National Museum – East Rudolf and classified as Homo habilis. (See Homo habilis.)
Homo habilis shares many features with the apes known as Australopithecus. Like them, H. habilis has a long-armed, short-legged and ape-like skeletal structure. Its hands and feet are well suited to climbing. These characteristics show that H. habilis spent most of its time in the trees.
The volume of the majority of skulls classified as H. habilis does not exceed 650 cubic centimeters. This brain size is very close to that of present-day gorillas. On the other hand, its jaw structure closely resembles that of present-day apes, definitely proving that it was an ape.
In terms of general skull features, it bears a closer resemblance to Australopithecus africanus. Like A. africanus, H. habilis has no eyebrow protrusions. Previously, this feature led to its being misinterpreted and depicted as a human-like creature.
KNM-ER 1470's long, broad forehead, its less obvious eyebrow protrusions, the lack of the structure in the gorilla skull known as the sagittal crest, and its 750 cubic centimeter brain volume show that it did not resemble human beings. J. E. Cronin describes why:
However 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.8
C. Loring Brace of the Museum of Anthropology, Michigan University says this on the same subject:
. . . 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.9
Another well known paleontologist, Bernard Wood, makes this comment:
There is no evidence that this cranium particularly resembles H. sapiens or H. erectus according to either phenetic or cladistic evidence. Phenetically, KNM-ER 1470 is closest to the remains from Olduvai [considered apes by creationists] referred to as H. habilis.10
The reason why the fossil KNM-ER 1470 was interpreted as human for a while lies in the biased and leading interpretation of its discoverer, Richard Leakey. He sought to give the impression that although the fossil had ape-like features, the skull was too large to be that of an ape. The aim was to describe the creature as an intermediate form.
Professor Tim G. Bromage, a researcher into the anatomy of the human face, summarizes the facts he revealed with computer-aided 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.11
KNM-ER 1470's 750-cubic centimeter skull does not in any way make it a hominid and prevent it from being an ape species, because there are apes with just such a skull volume. In referring to ape skulls, evolutionists generally point to chimpanzees, with a smaller-sized brain, but never mention gorillas. Chimpanzees have an average brain volume of 400 cubic centimeters. Gorillas have an average brain size of 500 cubic centimeters, although in larger individuals, this may rise to 700 and even 750 cc centimeters.
Therefore, KNM-ER 1470's large brain size shows that it was a large ape (estimated to be a male), rather than a hominid. Indeed, the fact that KNM-ER 1470 has large teeth and a broad skull volume indicates that its body was correspondingly large.
From all this, it appears that structurally, KNM-ER 1470 was an ape resembling Australopithecus. Many features, such as its forward-looking face, abnormally large molars and brain volume too small to belong to a human being, reveal this clearly. In addition, KNM-ER 1470's teeth are identical to those of Australopithecus.12