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

Fossils discovered durante 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 durante multiple locations across the African continent.

“We did not evolve from a celibe ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere sopra East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology mediante Leipzig, Germany, and a co-author of two new studies on the fossils, published per 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 esatto Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share per common ancestor that lived over six million years ago. 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 puro Homo sapiens were discovered durante Ethiopia. Con 2003, researchers working at per site called Herto discovered a skull estimated onesto be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old.

Verso pair of partial skulls from another site, Omo-Kibish, dated to 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 in a small region – perhaps durante Ethiopia, or nearby per East Africa. After Homo sapiens arose, researchers believed, the species spread out across the continent.

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

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

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

The teeth bore some resemblance esatto those of living humans, but the shape seemed strangely primitive. “It did not make sense,” Dr. Hublin, now at the Max Planck Institute, recalled durante 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 mediante the same sedimentary layer as the skulls. The people of Jebel Irhoud most likely made them for many purposes, putting some on wooden handles esatto fashion spears.

Many of the flint blades showed signs of having been burned. The people at Jebel Irhoud probably lit fires sicuro cook food, heating discarded blades buried durante 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 preciso 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 durante the same rock layer, must have been the same age.

Despite the age of the teeth and jaws, anatomical details showed they nevertheless belonged onesto Homo sapiens, not puro 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 per the new study.

The people at Jebel Irhoud shared verso general resemblance onesto one another – and onesto living humans. Their brows were heavy, their chins small, their faces flat and wide. But all in all, they were not so different from people today.

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

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