Fossil find thrusts humanity’s roots 100,000 years further back in time

We may be much older than we thought‚ and our lineage might not be as simple as we thought.

Two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, based on micro computed tomographic scans of multiple original fossils, are shown in this undated handout photo. Dated to 300 thousand years ago these early Homo sapiens already have a modern-looking face that falls within the variation of humans living today. However, the archaic-looking virtual imprint of the braincase (blue) indicates that brain shape, and possibly brain function, evolved within the Homo sapiens lineage.
Image: FILE

A new set of fossils‚ found in Morocco‚ have pegged Home sapiens as being 100 000 years older than we previously believed.

They were found several thousand kilometres away from an area of eastern Africa that has long been considered the cradle of our birth.

Jean-Jacques Hublin‚ one of the scientists leading the research done by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology‚ said in a statement: “They are not just like‚ but they had basically the face you could meet on the train in New York.”

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Combined with other evidence‚ we now had reason to believe Homo sapiens “may have reached its modern-day form in more than one place within Africa”‚ he said.

According to the paper‚ published in Nature this week‚ the site where these ancient people lived “was a cave that might have served as a hunting camp‚ where people butchered and ate gazelles and other prey. They used fire and their tools were made of flint from about 40km away.”

Previously‚ the oldest securely dated Homo sapiens fossils came from t Omo Kibish in Ethiopia‚ dated to 195 000 years ago. At Herto‚ also in Ethiopia‚ a Homo sapiens fossil is dated to 160 000 years ago.

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Commenting on the discovery in Nature‚ Chris Stinger of the Natural History Museum in London said the discovery could help “illuminate how our species evolved”.

The specimens include a skull‚ a jaw and teeth‚ as well as stone tools. They appear to be from at least five individuals‚ including young adults‚ an adolescent‚ and a child of about eight.

Analysis shows their brain shape was more elongated than what people have today.

Richard Potts‚ of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History‚ told Associated Press the Morocco fossils “appear to reflect the very early transition to Homo sapiens‚ very possibly denoting the outset of the lineage to which all people belong”.

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