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315000-Year-Old Fossils From Morocco Could Be Earliest Recorded Homo Sapiens

315000-Year-Old Fossils From Morocco Could Be Earliest Recorded Homo Sapiens”

"Regarding Homo sapiens, what we say is that the dispersal of the species predates 300,000" years ago. New fossils from Morocco push the evidence back by about 100,000 years.

"It is not the story of it happening in a rapid way in a "Garden of Eden" somewhere in Africa", Dr. Jean-Jacques Hublin, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany who was involved in the discovery, told BBC News.

"We used to think that there was a cradle of mankind 200,000 years ago in east Africa, but our new data reveal that Homo sapiens spread across the entire African continent around 300,000 years ago", observes Hublin, a paleoanthropologist.

"Long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo sapiens there was dispersal within Africa".

Previously, the earliest modern human fossils found in Ethiopia were dated to be around 195,000 years old.

If we look at the history of human evolution, until the mid 1980s it was thought modern humans evolved in Africa and shortly after migrated to Europe around 40,000 years ago, Prof Grün said.

French paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin poses with the casting of a Homo Sapiens skull discovered in Morocco.

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Steele, part of an global research team that started excavating the Morrocan site in 2004, studies how food and environmental change influenced human evolution and migration. Scientists believed modern humans evolved suddenly from more primitive human populations in East Africa.

The fossils - which comprise, skulls, teeth and long bones of at least five early humans - represent the oldest evidence of our own species.

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

Remarkably, the small, flat face and jaw shape of those ancient Homo sapiens closely resembled today's humans, the team said.

It is believed that our lineage diverged from Neanderthals and Denisovans more than half-a-million years ago, but evidence for what happened since is hard to come by.

How do we know how old the fossils are?

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.

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This is a common argument in anthropology - where does a newly discovered fossil, especially one with a mix of ancient and more modern features, fit in the bushy family tree of human ancestry?

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

"The Sahara was green and filled with lakes and rivers", Nature said. Their findings paint a picture of a hunting encampment where people passing through the landscape would spend the night, take shelter and clean and consume the animals they hunted, McPherron said.

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.

The researchers hope to return to Jebel Irhoud because there is still more to be excavated. Hublin's team returned to the site in 2004 hoping to clarify that date - and instead stumbled upon more fossils.

"Our results challenge the preconceived notion of early modern humans in East Africa in many ways regarding the date of emergence of our species, the geographical conditions of this emergence and the conditions of the evolution of the early forms of Homo sapiens", Hublin said.

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