New Fossil May Prove Humans Are Older Than We Thought
Archaeologists have discovered the oldest known human fossils found outside of Africa. The remains, a jawbone and teeth, were found in Israel and are estimated to be as old as 194,000 years. If that estimate is accurate, it would make the bones fifty thousand years older than the next oldest human fossil found outside of Africa. It would also be contemporaneous with current estimates of when humans likely first migrated out of Africa.
The finding is, obviously, significant. Among other implications, the fossils open the possibility that early humans may have interbred with more archaic human genetic lines than previously supposed. It also may illustrate the routes humans took while migrating through Eurasia.
Scientists used to believe that the African exodus began sometime between seventy and forty thousand years ago. Research in 2014 pushed that date back to sometime around 100,000 years ago. Then, in 2017, genetic research showed that homo sapiens may have mixed genes with German Neanderthals over 220,000 years ago, making the timeline a bit more confusing.
The new fossil bears many physiological markers that it belonged to a modern human, potentially proving that we evolved those features earlier than we thought. Israel Hershkovitz, co-lead author of the study published about the fossil, says the findings shake up our understanding of our ancient history.
“[This] suggests that our biological history needs to be pushed back to a much earlier period – not 200,000, but probably 500,000 years. The history of our own species, Homo sapiens, is longer and probably more complicated than scientists previously believed,” said Hershkovitz.