Human skin belonging to two-million-year old fossils is believed to have been found in the remains of six ancient skeletons.
Anthropologists claim to have discovered preserved skin tissue belonging to an early human species in a cave near Johannesburg, in South Africa.
The tissue thought to come from the species Australopithecus sediba could be the oldest example of skin ever found and could reveal important details about early human life.
Experts believe they have also found the remains of early humans’ last meals in the skeletons’ teeth.
The discoveries follow excavation of the cave site following the discovery of the remains of a 4′ 2″ male skeleton in 2008.
Professor Lee Berger, an anthropologist at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who has been leading the excavation, told Online: “We found out this wasn’t just a normal type of rock that they were contained in it was a rock that was preserving organic material.
“Plant remains are captured in it seeds, things like that even food particulates that are captured in the teeth, so we can see what they were eating.
“Maybe more remarkably, we think we’ve found fossil skin here too.”
The excavation was sparked when the professor’s son Matthew stumbled upon a fossilised bone in the Malapa Nature Reserve.
They later excavated an almost complete skull, together with shoulder bones, a hand, wrist bones and ankle bones, with Professor Berger announcing the discovery to the world in 2010.
He described the early human as a new species that he called Australopithecus sediba and is thought to be a transitional species between earlier Australopithecus species and early Homo species.
Research has found that the species had a slim waist similar to modern humans but feet that turned sharply inwards.
Although it had the same number of vertebrae as modern man its back was longer and more flexible while its cone-shaped rib cage allowed it to move its shoulder blades and climb trees.
Professor Berger and his team are now trying to create a live laboratory on top of the site so they can continue working on the fossils while they are still in the ground without damaging them.
But he has no idea how many more human fossils he may find.
He said that the skeletons they’ve found had many features similar to Homo specie such as the shape of their pelvis, hand and teeth, but they also had primate-like features too.