A jawbone found in a cave in Israel’s Mount Carmel region has reset the clock on human evolution. The fossil, the earliest known record of Homo sapiens outside of Africa, was discovered in 2002 during an excavation of the prehistoric Misliya Cave. After 15 years of intensive research by an international team of multidisciplinary scientists, the unique remains of an adult upper jawbone, complete with several teeth, has been dated to 170,000-200,000 years ago. (Feature photo: Misliya cave, where a jawbone complete with teeth was recently discovered dating to 177,000-194,000 years ago. Mina Weinstein-Evron, University of Haifa)
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Dated to 170,000-200,000 years ago, bone is the earliest known record of Homo sapiens outside of Africa, and indicates long period of intermingling between human species. “This has changed the whole concept of modern human evolution,” said Prof. Israel Hershkovitz of the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. The research was published Thursday in the prestigious Science magazine.
Based on fossils found in Ethiopia, for the past 50 years scientists have believed that modern humans appeared in Africa, the “cradle of humanity,” roughly 160,000-200,000 years ago. The earliest record of migration outside of Africa was dated to around 90,000-120,000 years ago, through fossils discovered at digs in Israel’s Skhul and Qafzeh caves almost 90 years ago.
With this Misliya cave jawbone, however, the history of human evolution is being rewritten.
“The entire narrative of the evolution of Homo sapiens must be pushed back by at least 100,000-200,000 years,” said Hershkovitz, the head of the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research at TAU’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.
The Misliya fossil not only resets the date for Homo sapien evolution and migration, but also spurs the mind-blowing implication that modern humanity did not evolve independently but rather alongside — and intermingled with — many other hominin groups, such as Neanderthals, he said.
…. In addition to the genetic analysis of the bone, archaeological findings confirmed that Homo sapiens “lived in parallel with other types of humans a lot longer than thought,” she said. Fossil records have indicated that Homo sapiens are a very diverse group. Now, she said, it is much more likely that the species is made up of a mix of hominin groups.
“We are researchers, not ‘finders,’” said Weinstein-Evron. “The minute we uncover one thing,it is the beginning of looking into something else.”