Could man have developed out of the Central West?
Katoomba-based researcher Rex Gilroy, who is known as 'Yowie man', is convinced an ironstone mineralisation find in the Vale of Clwydd is a fossil skull that could rewrite the story of how modern man developed.
The skull was found by local fossil enthusiast Phil Whittaker in 2018. Dr Gilroy, who has been granted an honorary doctorate from a university in California, has been examining the skull and said, to him, the find suggests that a primitive race of near-human ancestors occupied the Lithgow district around 2.5 million years ago.
Dr Gilroy said the skull, despite some deterioration and crushing on the left side, still displayed a zygomatic arch and lower jaw on the right.
He observed the eye sockets were roundish and close together and there is a backward-sloping forehead as well as faint outlines of teeth on a forward-projecting muzzle.
"The fossil is undoubtedly of immense age. Having visited the site of the discovery with Phil and seen the deposits I believe the skull dates to around 2.5 million years BP [Before Present]," he said.
"It displays 'gracile' Australopithecine features, rather than the 'robust' form of Australopithecines and lacks the outward-projecting thick eyebrow sockets of 'robusts'.
"Many scientists believe the 'graciles' manufactured crude stone and bone tools and had a carnivorous diet, as they evolved into the earliest members of the Genus Homo. The 'robusts' however remained herbivorous in feeding habits and did not develop a technology."
Dr Gilroy said he would be interested to hear if anyone has made similar finds in the area.
He said he uncovered a deteriorated 'robust' skull-type from 2.6 million years-old sediments at a Katoomba location on January 6, 2005.
"The Katoomba skull resembles the South African Australopithecus robustus Broom 1939 and suggests an Australopithecine migration from Africa via the former south-east Asian-Australia land shelf, reached the Australian landmass at a remote period," he said.
Dr Gilroy believes both forms of Australopithecines probably shared a a range of habitation that included the Blue Mountains and Central West.