Everything Known About Human History Just Got An Adjustment Of Sorts

Lucy Bush
June 8, 2017

Homo sapiens has been revealed to be 100,000 years older than previously assumed - ageing our species by a whole third and dislodging East Africa as the cradle of humankind.

The understanding of human origins has been turned on its head with the announcement of the discovery of fossils unearthed on a Moroccan hillside that are about 100,000 years older than any other known remains of our species, Homo sapiens.

"Our analysis convinced us that this material represents the very root of our species, the oldest Homo sapiens ever found in Africa or elsewhere", said Jean-Jacques Hublin, lead study author, paleoanthropologist and professor at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Today, the closest living relatives to H. sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share a common ancestor that lived over 6 million years ago.

The undated artist rendering provided by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology shows two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) based on micro computed tomographic scans of multiple original fossils.

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Professor Rainer Grün, director of the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, said: "If we look at the history of human evolution until the mid-80s it was thought model humans evolved in Africa and shortly after migrated to Europe at around 40,000 years".

"This evidence makes Jebel Irhoud the oldest and richest African Middle Stone Age hominin site that documents early stages of the Homo sapiens clade", they wrote.

"We now have to rethink a number of principles with human evolution". Scientists believed modern humans evolved suddenly from more primitive human populations in East Africa.

With few fossil remains to work with, the evolutionary history of modern humans is full of holes and relies heavily on conjecture.

These were found alongside bones of animals including gazelles and zebras that they hunted, stone tools perhaps used as spearheads and knives, and evidence of extensive fire use.

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"Rather, we would support the notion that around 300,000 years ago, very early forms of Homo sapiens were already dispersed all over Africa". "We realized this site was much older than anyone could imagine". They employed a technique known as thermoluminescence to measure the level of accumulation of radiation in the artifacts to establish an accurate age of the objects.

This discovery, combined with a Homo sapien skull found in South Africa, challenges the theory that Homo sapiens were confined to east Africa. Around this time, the Sahara was green and filled with lakes and rivers.

Some of the Middle Age stone tools from Jebel Irhoud. They were short, had small brains, and could fashion only crude stone tools. Their findings paint a picture of a hunting encampment where people passing through the landscape would spend the night, take shelter and clean and consume the animals they hunted, McPherron said. Although they tried to extract DNA from them, it wasn't there, Hublin said.

The Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco.

Hublin did not hazard a guess as to how long ago the very first members of our species appeared, but said it could not have been more than 650,000 years ago, when the evolutionary lineage that led to Homo sapiens split from the one that led to the Neanderthals.

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But given their modern-looking face and teeth, Hublin said, these people may have blended in today if they simply wore a hat.

Other reports by Info About Network

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