Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found per Morocco, Altering History of Our Species

Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found per Morocco, Altering History of Our Species

Fossils discovered per Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday, verso finding that rewrites the story of mankind’s origins and suggests that our species evolved in multiple locations across the African continent.

“We did not evolve from a single ‘cradle of mankind‘ somewhere durante East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and per co-author of two new studies on the fossils, published in the journal Nature. “We evolved on the African continent.”

Until now, the oldest known fossils of our species dated back just 195,000 years. The Moroccan fossils, by contrast, are roughly 300,000 years old. Remarkably, they indicate that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways.

Today, the closest living relatives preciso Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share verso common ancestor that lived over six million years spillo. After the split from this ancestor, our ancient forebears evolved into many different species, known as hominins.

They were long and low, like those of earlier hominins

Until now, the oldest fossils that clearly belonged onesto Homo sapiens were discovered sopra Ethiopia. Mediante 2003, researchers working at a site called Herto discovered per skull estimated onesto be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old.

Per pair of partial skulls from another site, Omo-Kibish, dated sicuro around 195,000 years of age, at the time making these the oldest fossils of our species.

Findings such as these suggested that our species evolved durante verso small region – perhaps per Ethiopia, or nearby con East Africa. After Homo sapiens arose, researchers believed, the species spread out across the continent.

Yet paleoanthropologists were aware of mysterious hominin fossils discovered mediante other parts of Africa that did not seem esatto fit the narrative.

Mediante 1961, miners sopra Morocco dug up verso few pieces of a skull at a site called Jebel Irhoud. Later digs revealed a few more bones, along with flint blades.

Using crude techniques, researchers estimated the remains esatto be 40,000 years old. Con the 1980s, however, verso paleoanthropologist named Jean-Jacques Hublin took verso closer aspetto at one jawbone.

The teeth bore some resemblance onesto those of living humans, but the shape seemed strangely primitive. “It did not make sense,” Dr. Hublin, now at the Max Planck Institute, recalled con an interview.

They were short, had small brains and could fashion only crude stone tools

Since 2004, Dr. Hublin and his colleagues have been working through layers of rocks on verso desert hillside at Jebel Irhoud. They have found verso wealth of fossils, including skull bones from five individuals who all died around the same time.

Just as important, the scientists discovered flint blades durante the same sedimentary layer as the skulls. The people of Jebel Irhoud most likely made them for many purposes, putting some on wooden handles puro fashion spears.

Many of the flint blades showed signs of having been burned. The people at Jebel Irhoud probably lit fires esatto cook food, heating discarded blades buried mediante the ground below. This accident of history made it possible sicuro use the flints as historical clocks.

Dr. Hublin and his colleagues used per method called thermoluminescence onesto calculate how much time had passed since the blades were burned. They estimated that the blades were roughly 300,000 years old. The skulls, discovered in the same rock layer, must have been the same age.

Despite the age of the teeth and jaws, anatomical details showed they nevertheless belonged preciso Homo sapiens, not to another hominin group, such as the Neanderthals.

Resetting the clock on mankind’s debut would be achievement enough. But the new research is also notable for the discovery of several early humans rather than just one, as so often happens, said Marta Mirazon Lahr, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Cambridge who was not involved mediante the new study.

The people at Jebel Irhoud shared a general resemblance prezzo gleeden sicuro one another – and preciso living humans. Their brows were heavy, their chins small, their faces flat and wide. But all mediante all, they were not so different from people today.

The flattened faces of early Homo sapiens may have something puro do with the advent of speech, speculated Christopher Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum durante London.

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