Newly discovered fossil rewrites history

Credit: Rolf Quam

Scientists have finally succeeded in dating a fragment of a skull found in a cavern in Isreal over a decade ago. This recent development puts modern man’s move out of Africa at 50,000 years earlier than previously thought.

This discovery was made on the archeological site of Misliya, located on the slopes of Mount Carmel. Until now, the researchers -whose works were recently published in Science – explain that the most ancient Homo sapien fossils found outside of Africa dated from between 90,000 and 120,000 years ago. However, this recent dating on the left upper jaw bone of the fossil puts this date back to between 177,000 and 194,000 years ago. Thus the history of modern man needs to be revised…. perhaps until we find the next fossil?

We know at least one thing for certain: “This fossil is the most solid indication until now that our ancestors migrated out of Africa earlier than previously thought”, says Rolf Quam, professor of anthropology in the State University of New York, and one of the co-authors of the study. This also means that “modern man possibly encountered other groups of archaic humans during this longer period of presence in Eurasia, offering opportunities for cultural exchanges and interbreeding”.

Three dating techniques were completed on the piece of jaw bone and teeth found in Misliya. These bones are extremely similar our own anatomy, meaning that they are likely to represent a group of humans that gave birth to modern populations. “All the anatomical details of the Misliya fossil correspond to modern human morphology, although certain traits are also found in Neanderthal man and other archaic human groups”, explains Professor Quam.

Excavations carried out in the cave confirm that these people hunted numerous types of game, that they knew how to light fires and use stone tools similar to those created by the first modern man in Africa. This exceptional discovery reminds us that there is still much to be discovered about the history of man and our ancestors. Finding the needles of knowledge in the haystack of history is indeed a mammoth task!