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 in multiple locations across the African continent.
“We did not evolve from per scapolo ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere mediante East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, per paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology sopra Leipzig, Germany, and a co-author amor en linea 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 sopra fundamental ways.
Today, the closest living relatives preciso Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share per 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 to Homo sapiens were discovered mediante Ethiopia. Per 2003, researchers working at verso site called Herto discovered per skull estimated to be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old.
A 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 con verso small region – perhaps mediante Ethiopia, or nearby durante East Africa. After Homo sapiens arose, researchers believed, the species spread out across the continent.
Yet paleoanthropologists were aware of mysterious hominin fossils discovered per other parts of Africa that did not seem sicuro fit the narrative.
Sopra 1961, miners per Morocco dug up verso few pieces of verso skull at verso site called Jebel Irhoud. Later digs revealed verso few more bones, along with flint blades.
Using crude techniques, researchers estimated the remains onesto be 40,000 years old. Per the 1980s, however, a paleoanthropologist named Jean-Jacques Hublin took verso closer immagine at one jawbone.
The teeth bore some resemblance sicuro those of living humans, but the shape seemed strangely primitive. “It did not make sense,” Dr. Hublin, now at the Max Planck Institute, recalled con 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 per 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 mediante the same sedimentary layer as the skulls. The people of Jebel Irhoud most likely made them for many purposes, putting some on wooden handles onesto fashion spears.
Many of the flint blades showed signs of having been burned. The people at Jebel Irhoud probably lit fires esatto cook food, heating discarded blades buried mediante 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 sicuro 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 onesto 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, per paleoanthropologist at the University of Cambridge who was not involved in the new study.
The people at Jebel Irhoud shared per general resemblance onesto one another – and esatto living humans. Their brows were heavy, their chins small, their faces flat and wide. But all con all, they were not so different from people today.
The flattened faces of early Homo sapiens may have something to do with the advent of speech, speculated Christopher Stringer, per paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum mediante London.