A 210,000-year-old skull has been identified as the earliest modern human remains found outside Africa, putting the clock back on mankind’s arrival in Europe by more than 150,000 years, researchers said Wednesday.
In a startling discovery that changes our understanding of how modern man populated Eurasia, the findings support the idea that Homo sapiens made several, sometimes unsuccessful migrations from Africa over tens of thousands of years.
Southeast Europe has long been considered a major transport corridor for modern humans from Africa. But until now the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens on the continent dated back only around 50,000 years.
There has however been a number of discoveries indicating the ancient presence of Neanderthals — an early human cousin — across the continent.
Two fossilised but badly damaged skulls unearthed in a Greek cave in the 1970s were identified as Neanderthal at the time.
In findings presented in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers used state-of-the art computer modelling and uranium dating to re-examine the two skulls.
One of them, named Apidima 2 after the cave in which the pair were found, proved to be 170,000 years old and did indeed belong to a Neanderthal.
But, to the shock of scientists, the skull named Apidima 1 pre-dated Apidima 2 by as much as 40,000 years, and was determined to be that of a Homo sapiens.
That makes the skull by far the oldest modern human remains ever discovered on the continent, and older than any known Homo sapiens specimen outside of Africa.
“It shows that the early dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa not only occurred earlier, before 200,000 years ago, but also reached further geographically, all the way to Europe,” Katerina Harvati, a palaeoanthropologist at the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen, Germany, told AFP.
“This is something that we did not suspect before, and which has implications for the population movements of these ancient groups.”
Apidima 1 lacked classic features associated with Neanderthal skulls, including the distinctive bulge at the back of the head, shaped like hair tied in a bun.
– Multiple migrations? –
Hominins — a subset of great apes that includes Homo sapiens and Neanderthals — are believed to have emerged in Africa more than six million years ago. They left the continent in several migration waves starting about two million years ago.
The oldest known African fossil attributed to a member of the Homo family is a 2.8 million-year-old jawbone from Ethiopia.
Homo sapiens replaced Neanderthals across Europe for good around 45,000-35,000 years ago, in what was long considered a gradual takeover of the continent involving millenia of co-existence and even interbreeding.
But the skull discovery in Greece suggests that Homo sapiens undertook the migration from Africa to southern Europe on “more than one occasion”, according to Eric Delson, a professor of anthropology at City University of New York.
“Rather than a single exit of hominins from Africa to populate Eurasia, there must have been several dispersals, some of which did not result in permanent occupations,” said Delson, who was not involved in the Nature study.
Harvati said advances in dating and genetics technology could continue to shape our understanding of how our pre-historic ancestors spread throughout the world.
“I think recent advances in palaeoanthropology have shown that the field is still full of surprises,” she said.
New testimony adds 2 stunning — and previously unknown — details about the Ukraine extortion
New testimony released Monday from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Ukraine scandal included at least two new stunning details about the quid pro quo scheme at the heart of the matter.
Overall, the transcripts for depositions of Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, who were advisers to U.S. envoy Kurt Volker, built on the story of that we already know: that President Donald Trump pushed a shadow foreign policy to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political opponents, a scheme that involved using his office and military aid as leverage over the country in opposition to the official policy.
Trump blasted for his ‘Endorsement of Doom’ after Sean Spicer loses on ‘Dancing with the Stars’
Team Trump had gone all in urging supporters to vote for former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on the game show "Dancing with the Stars."
Votes had been urged by RNC officials and Trump himself had urged his 66 million Twitter followers to vote for Spicer.
Despite the full heft of the Trump campaign, Spicer lost on Monday's show.
Trump deleted his failed tweet urging votes for Spicer -- and instead said it was a "great try" by his former advisor.
Looks like this endorsement was as successful as your last one!
‘He’s misunderstood’: Nikki Haley tells Fox News how Trump is actually a really good listener
Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley defended President Donald Trump during a Monday appearance with Fox News personality Sean Hannity.
Hannity asked the former South Carolina governor if Trump was "misunderstood."
"I do think he’s misunderstood," Haley replied.
"I can tell you, from the first day to the last day that I worked for the president, he always listened, he was always conscious of hearing other voices, allowing people to debate out the issues, and then he made his decision," Haley claimed.
She argued that, "I saw a president that was very thoughtful, looked at all of the issues, made decisions, and it was a pleasure and honor to work with him."