Fossil found that could change everything we know about the first humans

Up until recently, scientists used to think humans left Africa for Euroasia barely 60,000 years ago, where they quickly outclassed contemporary relatives like Neanderthals and Denisovans.

The cave is located some 90 mabove mean sea level (AMSL) and is part of a series of prominent prehistoric cave sites located along thewestern slopes of Mount Carmel, Israel.

The new discovery supports the idea that humans migrated out of Africa through a northern route, the Nile valley and the eastern Mediterranean coast, and not a southern route across the Bab al-Mandeb strait, the southern coast of Saudi Arabia, the Indian subcontinent and East Asia, said Tel Aviv University paleoanthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, who led the study.

In a paper published on Friday in the journal Science, the team, led by Israel Hershkovitz, has revealed that the upper human jaw recovered from that site is believed to be almost 180,000 years old. Misliya-1's presence brings the fossil evidence into line with genetic studies, which suggest that modern humans first interbred with Neanderthals around 200,000 years ago somewhere outside of Africa.

"But there were severe periods of aridity before and after this time, meaning that the region was probably more often a "boulevard of broken dreams" than a stable haven for early humans", wrote Galway-Witham and anthropologist Christopher Stringer, also of the Natural History Museum, in a paper commenting on Hershkovitz's findings. An worldwide team of researchers dated the fossil to between 175,000 to 200,000 years ago. If the Levallois technique was a game-changer for H. sapiens, he says, then it should have also been a game-changer for other human species.

"Our species", Hershkovitz added, "is a genetic mishmash of several hominins". The jawbone, said to be between 175,000 to 200,000 years old, suggests that Homo Sapien migration may have occurred a full 75,000 years prior to what the scientific community has, until now, agreed upon.


Radiocarbon analysis of both the fossil and tools suggests these are between 177,000 and 194,000 years old. Before the Jebel Irhoud discovery, it was believed that the early modern humans we evolved from were in Africa 200,000 years ago and looked very similar to modern humans. "People were moving all the time". New discoveries that predate our understanding of humankind beg us all to reanalyze our own beliefs and understandings about how we became to be. Also, alongside it, archeologists found tools made of flint, crafted with a sophisticated "Levallois technique", whereby a smoothly shaped edge is obtained by flaking away at a flint in bits. Homo sapiens were still late to the party, just not as late as we thought.

That date range makes Misliya-1 the oldest human fossils outside Africa as well as a contemporary of the humans found at Herto and Omo Kibish in Ethiopia.

This is the left hemi-maxilla with teeth found in a cave in Israel, the oldest known modern human fossil found outside Africa. "Perhaps the co-occurrence of this tool type with early Homo sapiens at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco-and now with modern humans at Misliya-indicates some association of the development of this technology in Africa and western Asia with the emergence of Homo sapiens in these regions".

It is possible that descendants of the early Homo sapiens populations who out of Africa were seeking prey and additional resources. That's about when we'd assumed humans were just leaving Africa.

For early humans, the Levant was the gateway to everything beyond Africa.


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