Fossilized Jawbone Hints at a Much Earlier Exodus from Africa

Fossilized Jawbone Hints at a Much Earlier Exodus from Africa

Fossilized Jawbone Hints at a Much Earlier Exodus from Africa

The fossil of the left part of the upper jaw of a young adult - the person's sex remains unclear - came from Misliya Cave on Mount Carmel's western slopes about 7.5 miles (12 km) south of Haifa. With recent excavations at Jebel Irhoud (Oldest Homo Sapien Found In Morroco) as well as the Turkish site Gobekli Tepe (World's First Temple), a monument that predates Stonehenge by 6,000 years, the understanding of our history as humans on this planet grows older and more complex every day.

"We have the pre-molars, the molars, the canine, and we have the lateral incisor", says Israel Hershkovitz, a paleoanthropologist at Tel Aviv University who was part of the team that studied the fossil. The research was published today in Science, and if it holds true, then humanity's story just got a lot more complex.

It might feel like we're always pushing dates further back into history; last year the dating of a fossil pushed back the origins of anatomically modern humans in Africa by a whole 100,000 years. Now, a newly discovered human fossil found in Northern Israel suggests that early Homo sapiens left Africa at least 50,000 years sooner than previously thought. It helps to explain why a modern human fossil was found in China, dated to 120,000 years ago.

Moreover, researchers studying DNA recovered from fossils have shown that as H. sapiens entered new lands it did in fact interbreed with archaic human species it encountered, including the Neandertals and the mysterious Denisovans.

"Our species", Hershkovitz added, "is a genetic mishmash of several hominins". The fossils from Jebel Irhoud date to315,000 years ago and are thus older than Misliya, while those from Omo Kibish (195,000) and Herto (160,000) are similar in age to Misliya (177,000-194,000). Multiple lines of evidence show that Neanderthals and other humans native to Europe and Asia often hunted big game.

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The study adds to the discovery of human remains in the United Arab Emirates in 2011, the dating of which also suggested that the first wave of migration from Africa was earlier than previously hypothesized. These pulses may relate to so-called green Sahara episodes-intermittent periods of moister climate when the current desert belt across North Africa was vegetated and people could move more freely.

Throughout the twentieth century several other skulls were found near the site of the researchers' contemporary discovery on Mt Carmel.

"It is well-known from numerous studies that these were used mostly for the hunting of animals and processing their meat and skin (leather), as well as cutting plants", says Daniella Bar-Yosef, a researcher at Tel Aviv University and an associate at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology who is one of the co-authors of the paper. Taken together these findings push back the earliest known occurrence of our species outside of Africa by more than 50,000 years, the authors contend. They were shaped in a unique way called the Levallois technique, where stones were flaked around the edges to achieve a sophisticated point used in hunting.

Archaeologists have found even older Levallois examples in Africa, at sites ranging from Kenya to Morocco, associated with modern human remains. This suggests the emergence of this advanced method of stone-tool creation was linked to the appearance of modern humans in this region, as was previously seen in Africa. This new finding can force scientists to revise the theories regarding humans evolution.

It's worth remembering that our ancestors - the Homo sapiens - weren't the only species of human wandering the globe at this time.

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