Human Remains Found in Israeli Cave Rewrite History of When We First Left Africa
A partial jawbone found in an Israeli cave suggests that our Homo sapien ancestors left Africa much earlier than previous records suggest.
Last Thursday, researchers published their findings on the fossil, estimated age 177,000 to 194,000 years old, inside the Misliya Cave on the western slopes of Mount Carmel, which is about 7.5 miles south of Haifa. The jawbone contained seven teeth that contained traits of Homo sapiens not found in any other close human relatives at the time.
"Recent paleoanthropological studies have suggested that modern humans migrated from Africa as early as the beginning of the Late Pleistocene, 120,000 years ago," says the study. "[We] now suggest that early modern humans were already present outside of Africa more than 55,000 years earlier."
"During excavations of sediments at Mount Carmel, Israel, they found a fossil of a mouth part, a left hemimaxilla, with almost complete dentition. The sediments contain a series of well-defined hearths and a rich stone-based industry, as well as abundant animal remains. Analysis of the human remains, and dating of the site and the fossil itself, indicate a likely age of at least 177,000 years for the fossil—making it the oldest member of the Homo sapiens clade found outside Africa."
Furthermore, the presence of teeth like the Misliya maxilla indicate an association "with full-fledged Levallois technology in the Levant, suggesting that the emergence of this technology is linked to the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region." This also leaves open the possibility that the jawbone belonged to a previously unknown "missing link" population of Homo sapiens that was killed off soon after leaving Africa.
To test their suspicions about the jawbone, the researchers toured it around the world for five years, working to convince those in the community who were unwilling to accept that the dates in their theory were off. This study also provides fossil evidence for the longstanding scientific theory that humans migrated out of Africa through a northern route that spanned Nile valley and the eastern Mediterranean coast.
Other news worth boning up on (sorry): earlier this month scientists discovered that chameleon's ridged bones glow in the dark; the dating of a pelvic bone purported to belong to St. Nicholas of Myra suggests that Santa Claus was real; bones like the rings of a tree revealed how this Australian dinosaur survived in near-darkness and below freezing temperatures for years.