On July 19, 2001, early morning, the head (skull and mandible) of a hominid was discovered in the Chadian Sahara in the midst of the dunes of the Djourab erg. Very ancient, due to the testimony of the fauna surrounding them, and particularly well preserved, these fossils are in line with the fundamental discoveries allowing to retrace the origins of the Man. An hominid femur was among the fossils that an anonymous hand had placed near the head ('Was Toumaï (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) buried ?).
The inventors ('those who discover a treasure' according to the Larousse dictionary) are four, three Chadians (Fanoné Gongdibé, licentiate in natural sciences from the University of Yaoundé, an engineer in the Department of Mines and Geology of the Ministry, déetached to the National Center for Research Support (CNAR) of the Ministry of Higher Education, Ahounta Djimdoumalbaye, licentiate in natural sciences from the University of N'Djaména, a CNAR vacant, and Mahamat Adoum, a CNAR contractual) and a French scientist (Alain Beauvilain, doctor es Letters-geography), detached from the University of Paris X Nanterre to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, serving at CNAR as head of the Cooperation Project 'Supporting Paleontological Research. Alain Beauvilain was the chief of this mission. Issa Adoum, initially planned, could not participate in the mission.
Above, TM 266, 8 h, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, 'Toumaï', replaced in its exact position of discovery.
Below, a few minutes later, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, 'Toumaï', placed for the photo, in the center of an assemblage of fossils, including an hominid femur, disposed thus from an unknown date. The mandibular symphysis has not yet been displaced because it has not yet been identified as such.
Photographs Alain Beauvilain
And to say that the smallest sediments fixed on the skull (not even one gram) have not been preserved in the Palaeontology laboratory of the University of Poitiers to allow an attempt at dating from sediments directly related to the skull and not taken several years later on the site. (Relatives et absolutes dating). Photographs Alain Beauvilain
The right profile of Toumaï (before the missing part of the canine - that was found on 1 November 2001, exactly where the skull was located, as a result of screening by Fanoné Gongdibé - is not properly subsequently glued) and the base of the skull with the foramen magnum visible. Photograph Alain Beauvilain.
(More details on teeth : Toumaï shows the teeth)
The base of the skull and the place of the foramen magnum ('occipital hole') clearly visible in a female gorilla, an australopithecine and in Sahelanthropus tchadensis before reconstruction (photo of the original on TM266, the site of discovery), and after reconstruction.
The 'femur of Toumaï', an hominid femur found on July 19, 2001 among the fossils adjoining the head of Toumaï (photograph Aude Bergeret)
A degraded hominid femur was found near the cranium of Sahelanthropus tchadensis (Toumaï). Quickly identified as such, it will require an insinuation by Alain Beauvilain in the South African Journal of Science, Vol 100, September-October 2004, then his photograph in the Anthropologie XLVII/1-2 pp. 1-6 2009 so that its existence is more widely known.
To know more : John Hawks : 'Sahelanthropus 'the femur of Toumaï'
Cataloging and packaging of fossils found near the head of Toumaï.
Photograph Alain Beauvilain.
Around 2 pm on 19 July 2001, last looks, last observations before packing.
Photograph Mahamat Adoum.
19 July 2001, careful packaging of Toumaï. The inventors, who had understood from the first moment the importance of their discovery, wanted the 'whole world' to see the ancestor of Man exactly in its initial appearance. Photograph Alain Beauvilain
End of August 2001, presentation by the four inventors, the discoverer (Michel Brunet) and the Director of the CNAR (Baba El Hadj Mallah) of the Toumaï skull to his Excellency Idriss Déby, President of the Republic of Chad.
Herbert Thomas, honorary assistant director of the Palaeoanthropology and Prehistory Laboratory at the Collège de France, devotes the last pages of his book 'Where is man coming from? The challenge of our origins' (Acropolis, 2005) to the discovery of Toumaï. After specifying that between ‘the inventor and the discoverer, there is only a narrow space that allows history to play on the words', he specifies that ‘at the beginning of July 2001 Alain Beauvilain and his teammates brought the essential without which, without doubt, everything else would never have been'
Comparison of the Sahelanthropus tchadensis femur