An upper jawbone complete with teeth found at a site calledMisliya Cave, part of a complex of prehistoric caves along the western slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel, shifts the estimated timeframe for when humans first left Africa, suggesting they did so 40,000-50,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Wet periods could have drawn humans into the Near East, but long, dry spells mean that "the region was probably more often a "boulevard of broken dreams" than a stable haven for early humans", Chris Stringer and Julia Galway-Witham, palaeoanthropologists at the Natural History Museum in London, write in an essay accompanying the paper.
"This suggests that, while Africa was the origin of our species, some of our traits must have evolved or been acquired outside of Africa". "We evolved through interaction with other hominin groups".
Last year, scientists found a 300,000-year-old Homo sapienfossil in Morocco. "It provides the clearest evidence yet that our ancestors first migrated out of Africa much earlier than we previously believed". New discoveries that predate our understanding of humankind beg us all to reanalyze our own beliefs and understandings about how we became to be.
"During excavations of sediments at Mount Carmel, Israel, they found a fossil of a mouth part, a left hemimaxilla, with nearly complete dentition".
According to Hershkovitz, these features make this find the oldest known anatomically modern humans (compared to more primitive Homo sapiens fossils found in Africa that retain archaic characteristics). It's possible the remains belong not to ancestors of modern Homo sapiens, but to a population that later died off, he adds. Misliya had collapsed sometime after the Early Middle Stone Age and occupation by the individual now known to science as Misliya-1, the oldest human remains outside Africa.
What this new finding shows is that there were many waves of migration out of Africa starting very early in our evolutionary history, he says.
Misliya "answers some questions but also throw ups new questions - the hallmark of all good science", he added. Tools using the Levallois technique [a distinct type of stone knapping used in the Palaeolithic period] were also found near the site. When the newly discovered fossil human, dubbed Misliya-1, and its companions arrived in the area, they would have found themselves living alongside Neanderthals. The incisors and canines have features that occur only in Homo sapiens and not in our close cousin species, the Neanderthal and the Denisovan hominid. This not only shows the early humans in the region were solid hunters but also suggests that they may have been around even earlier than the jawbone proves, given nearby Levallois tools had been dated at around 190,000 and 260,000 years old.
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