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

Fossils discovered mediante 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 sopra multiple locations across the African continent.

“We did not evolve from per celibe ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere con East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology con Leipzig, Germany, and verso 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 con fundamental ways.

Today, the closest living relatives puro Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share verso 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 mediante Ethiopia. Sopra 2003, researchers working at per site called Herto discovered per skull estimated esatto be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old.

Per 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 con verso small region – perhaps per 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 mediante other parts of Africa that did not seem sicuro fit the narrative.

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

Using crude techniques, researchers estimated the remains esatto be 40,000 years old. Mediante 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 a wealth of fossils, including skull bones from five individuals who all died around the same time.

Just as important, the scientists discovered flint blades per the same sedimentary layer as the skulls. The people of Jebel Irhoud most likely made them for many purposes, putting some on wooden handles preciso fashion spears.

Many of the flint blades showed signs tavolo amor en linea of having been burned. The people at Jebel Irhoud probably lit fires puro cook food, heating discarded blades buried sopra the ground below. This accident of history made it possible sicuro use the flints as historical clocks.

Dr. Hublin and his colleagues used a method called thermoluminescence puro 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 mediante 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, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Cambridge who was not involved durante the new study.

The people at Jebel Irhoud shared per general resemblance esatto one another – and onesto living humans. Their brows were heavy, their chins small, their faces flat and wide. But all per 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, verso paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London.

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