Thursday, August 26, 2021

Earliest Modern Human Bones Outside of Africa Found

This news is three and half years old, but I didn't blog it at the time, so I'm mentioning it now.

While genetic evidence suggests that almost all modern humans outside Africa are primarily descended from an Out of Africa migration about 50,000 years ago, coinciding with the Upper Paleolithic era, there is hard evidence that there were modern humans outside of African much earlier than then. It could be that the earlier humans were an expansion that failed, or that they were so demographically overwhelming by a later wave of modern humans who were only slightly different genetically from them, that the genetic traces of the earlier waves aren't distinguishable from modern genetic evidence. 
Earliest modern humans out of Africa

Recent paleoanthropological studies have suggested that modern humans migrated from Africa as early as the beginning of the Late Pleistocene, 120,000 years ago. Hershkovitz et al. now suggest that early modern humans were already present outside of Africa more than 55,000 years earlier (see the Perspective by Stringer and Galway-Witham). 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.


To date, the earliest modern human fossils found outside of Africa are dated to around 90,000 to 120,000 years ago at the Levantine sites of Skhul and Qafzeh. A maxilla and associated dentition recently discovered at Misliya Cave, Israel, was dated to 177,000 to 194,000 years ago, suggesting that members of the Homo sapiens clade left Africa earlier than previously thought. This finding changes our view on modern human dispersal and is consistent with recent genetic studies, which have posited the possibility of an earlier dispersal of Homo sapiens around 220,000 years ago. The Misliya maxilla is associated 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, as has been documented in Africa.
Israel Hershkovitz, et al., "The earliest modern humans outside Africa", 359 (6374) Science 456-459 (January 26, 2018). DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8369

1 comment:

DDeden said...

New Nature article open access on 5 migratory pulses into Arabia starting 400ka at central lakes.