Fossils discovered mediante Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday, a finding that rewrites the story of mankind’s origins and suggests that our species evolved per multiple locations across the African continent.
“We did not evolve from a solo ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere in East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology sopra Leipzig, Germany, and verso co-author of two new studies on the fossils, published con 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 per fundamental ways.
Today, the closest living relatives preciso Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share a common ancestor that lived over six million years spillo. 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 con Ethiopia. Mediante 2003, researchers working at a site called Herto discovered a skull estimated preciso be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old.
Verso pair of partial skulls from another site, Omo-Kibish, dated esatto 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 per verso small region – perhaps per Ethiopia, or nearby mediante East Africa. After Homo sapiens arose, researchers believed, the species spread out across the continent.
Yet paleoanthropologists were aware of mysterious hominin fossils discovered mediante other parts of Africa that did not seem to fit the narrative.
Con 1961, miners per Morocco dug up per few pieces of per skull at a site called Jebel Irhoud. Later digs revealed a few more bones, along with flint blades.
Using crude techniques, researchers estimated the remains to be 40,000 years old. Con the 1980s, however, a paleoanthropologist named Jean-Jacques Hublin took per closer look 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 in 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 a 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 in 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 onesto cook food, heating discarded blades buried durante the ground below. This accident of history made it possible onesto use the flints as historical clocks.
Dr. Hublin and his colleagues used verso method called thermoluminescence esatto 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 sopra the same rock layer, must have been the same age.
Despite the age of the teeth and jaws, anatomical details showed they nevertheless belonged preciso 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, verso paleoanthropologist at the University of Cambridge who was not involved durante the new study.
The people at Jebel Irhoud shared per general resemblance sicuro one another – and preciso living humans. Their brows were heavy, their chins small, their faces flat and wide. But all mediante all, they were not so different from people today.
The flattened faces of early Homo sapiens may have something puro do with the advent of speech, ciÃ² che Ã¨ huggle speculated Christopher Stringer, per paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum durante London.