President of Chad donates replica of Toumai skull to UNESCO


The President of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, today presented a cast of the Toumai fossil cranium, the oldest hominine remain found to date, to UNESCO. The presentation was made at a ceremony with the Organization’s Director-General, Irina Bokova. It took place during the President's visit to the General Conference, which brings together all of the Organization’s Member States until 20 November.

“UNESCO today gives us an opportunity to say publicly that the work of the Franco-Chadian team headed by Professor Michel Brunet yielded results showing that Toumai is indeed the ancestor of humanity. Toumai who was born in the desert, 6,000 kilometres from here will rest at UNESCO for all eternity,” declared President Idriss Deby Itno.

The President then handed a cast of the cranium to the Director-General of UNESCO in the presence of Professor Baba Malaï, former head of the Centre national d’appui à la recherche du Tchad (Chad’s national centre for support to research) and Professor Brunet of the Collège de France, who led the bi-national paleoanthropological mission that found Sahelanthropus tchadensis, known as Toumai.

“The discovery of this cranium turned a new page in our understanding of the origins of humanity and has had a considerable historic, scientific and anthropologic impact […] This fits precisely with UNESCO’s mandate, the power of science to build intellectual moral solidarity. UNESCO is a choice venue for this fossil and the scientific debate it generates,” declared Ms Bokova, who also spoke about work undertaken by UNESCO over the past 40 years in publishing the General History of Africa.

The ceremony took place in the aftermath of a scientific symposium that was held at UNESCO on 7 November with renowned French anthropologist Yves Coppens and Michel Brunet.

Organized by the Permanent Delegation of Chad to UNESCO and the Organization’s Culture sector, the symposium focused on the impact of this discovery on paleoanthropological research and on the General History of Africa.

The Toumai cranium, whose Goran language name means “hope of life” was found in northern Chad on 19 July 2001. The seven million-year-old hominine cranium led to a major shift in paleoanthropological thinking which had previously identified East Africa as the cradle of humanity.