Remains of earliest modern human outside of Africa found in Israeli cave

Remains of earliest modern human outside of Africa found in Israeli cave

Their results determined that the jawbone is between 177,000 and 194,000 years old-confirming the scientists' hypothesis.

Anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University says the new find suggests that this tool-making method is a human innovation that may have been adopted by Neanderthals, although it's too soon to say for sure.

Some of the features were visually characteristic of modern humans, as well: they included a flat labial surface and a lingual groove, and no lingual tubercle, among other features, they report. This suggested that their migration occurred earlier than previously thought, but until our discovery at Misliya, we could not explain it.

On Thursday archeologists announced the finding of a fossilized human jawbone in a collapsed cave off the Northern Coast of Israel that is threatening to rewrite the lineage and narrative of human migration out of Africa.

The research surrounding this discovery was published today in the journal Science, and builds on some other fossils we've found of humans from caves in the region. The find may have implications for when and how our species arose, and how many waves of early humans left Africa. Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University's Anatomy and Anthropology Department.

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So this new discovery is surprising, he says. The Qafzeh/Skhul hominins are not the earliest modern human outside Africa as previously thought. The jawbone represents an interim step in the migration from Africa to Asia and fits in a more expansive timeline of human evolution that scientists are starting to adopt as the true historical record. Before the Jebel Irhoud discovery, it was believed that the early modern humans we evolved from were in Africa 200,000 years ago and looked very similar to modern humans.

Before that, the oldest evidence of humans outside Africa came from the Skhul and Qafzeh archaeological sites in Israel, and were dated to between 90,000 and 125,000 years ago.

The researchers confirmed that the jawbone belonged to a modern human by carrying out computed tomography (CT) scans of it, building up a 3D virtual model and comparing it with archaic human fossils from Africa, Europe and Asia - as well as modern human remains.

"Now we finally have fossil evidence of this migration, in addition to inferences drawn from ancient DNA studies and archaeological sites", paleoanthropologist Rolf Quam of Binghamton University in NY, a co-author of the study published in the journal Science, said, referring to genetic research suggesting a migration from Africa at least 220,000 years ago and probably earlier. Indeed, the evidence from Misliya is consistent with recent suggestions based on ancient DNA for an earlier migration, prior to 220,000 years ago, of modern humans out of Africa. Archaeologist John Shea of Stony Brook University, who was not involved in the new work, notes that Levallois-like stone tools have been found at sites in Africa dating to more than 300,000 years ago, and sites in Armenia dating to 400,000 years ago-long before H. sapiens is known to have appeared on the scene. But the evidence from recent years puts this singular "Out of Africa" theory into question. DNA evidence shows interbreeding with the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, and the Denisovans likely mated with an ancient human ancestor-possibly Homo erectus, though its DNA has never been sequenced. Between 244,000 and 190,000 years ago, several wetter periods may have made the Levant a hospitable place for migrating humans.

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