June 24, 2017

Humans are 100000 years older than we thought

08 June 2017, 02:14 | Clarence Schmidt

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The excavation project uncovered 16 new Homo sapiens fossils along with stone tools and animal bones. The new discovery in Morocco would push the date for the emergence of our species back another 100,000 years. Too many different-looking fossils have been lumped together under the species, he thinks, complicating efforts to interpret new fossils and to come up with scenarios on how, when and where our species emerged.

"They are not just like us", said Jean-Jacques Hublin, one of the scientists reporting the find, according to The Associated Press.

The first modern humans appeared as far back as 300,000 years ago - more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought, a landmark study has found. Up until this news, the narrative was that humans first evolved in Eastern Africa some 200,000 years ago.

Hublin says the fossil human bones found at Jebel Irhoud belonged to at least five individuals-three young adults, one adolescent, and a child about eight years old.

Professor Rainer GrĂ¼n, director of the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, said: "If we look at the history of human evolution until the mid-80s it was thought model humans evolved in Africa and shortly after migrated to Europe at around 40,000 years".

"Many of these fossils have been known for a long time, but fossils discovered during the recent excavations significantly added to the collection making it possible to undertake a comprehensive study of the cranial and dental remains", notes Bailey. Scientists believed modern humans evolved suddenly from more primitive human populations in East Africa.

"We agree with Hublin and colleagues that the Jebel Irhoud fossils now represent the best-dated evidence of an early "pre-modern" phase in H. sapiens evolution".

Compared to Neanderthals, early Homo sapiens had a larger cerebellum - the part of the brain that governs body movement.

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Scientists have learned these ancient humans had an elongated brain shape, according to the AP. In 2003, researchers working at a site called Herto discovered a skull estimated to be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old. "We realized this site was much older than anyone could imagine".

Dating was done by thermoluminescence, a pinpoint-accurate technology which measures the accumulated exposure of stone minerals to radiation generated by heat from the Sun, a volcano, or a human cooking fire.

A facial reconstruction of fragments of an early Homo sapiens skull found at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco.

The Sahara was effectively "green" at the time, with open grasslands, groupings of trees, rivers and huge lakes and more wet and humid than it is today.

And the flint tools found with the fossils were made using a primitive technique known as Lavallois, which involved roughly shaping a stone before splitting it to create a blade of a desired shape.

Some of the Middle Age stone tools from Jebel Irhoud.

"It means they were no slouches intellectually", Professor Groves said.

Coupled with other evidence, the Moroccan fossils suggest that Homo sapiens may have reached its modern-day form in more than one place within Africa, said Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the College of France in Paris. But this discovery widens the "cradle of life" from East Africa to the whole continent, Hublin said, and suggests that these evolutionary changes were happening across the continent at the same time.

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