‘First of our kind’ found in Morocco

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Media captionThe shape of a Jebel Irhoud skull (L) is actually almost identical to ours (R)

The idea in which modern people evolved in just one “cradle of humanity” in East Africa some 0,000 years ago is actually no longer tenable, completely new research suggests. 

Fossils of a few early humans have been found in North Africa in which show Homo sapiens emerged at least 100,000 years earlier than previously recognised. 

the idea suggests in which our species evolved all across the continent, the scientists involved say. 

Their work is actually published within the journal Nature.

Prof Jean-Jacques Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told me in which the discovery could “rewrite the text books” about our emergence as a species. 

“the idea is actually not the story of the idea happening in a rapid way in a ‘Garden of Eden’ somewhere in Africa. Our view is actually in which the idea was a more gradual development along with also the idea involved the whole continent. So if there was a Garden of Eden, the idea was all of Africa.” 

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Philipp Gunz/MPI EVA Leipzig

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A reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens skull based on scans of multiple original fossils

Prof Hublin was speaking at a news conference at the College de France in Paris, where he proudly showed journalists casts of the fossil remains his team has excavated at a site in Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. The specimens include skulls, teeth, along with also long bones. 

Earlier finds via the same site within the 1960s had been dated to be 40,000 years old along with also ascribed to an African form of Neanderthal, a close evolutionary cousin of Homo sapiens

although Prof Hublin was always troubled by in which initial interpretation, along with also when he joined the MPI he began reassessing Jebel Irhoud. along with also more than 10 years later he is actually right now presenting completely new evidence in which tells a very different story. 

The latest material has been dated by hi-tech methods to be between 300,000 along with also 350,000 years old. along with also the skull form is actually almost identical to modern humans.

The few significant differences are seen in a slightly more prominent brow line along with also smaller brain cavity. 

Prof Hublin’s excavation has further revealed in which these ancient people had employed stone tools along with also had learned how to make along with also control fire. So, not only did they look like Homo sapiens, they acted like them as well. 

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Shannon McPherron/MPI EVA Leipzig

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The Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco was recognised for its fossils via the 1960s

Until right now, the earliest fossils of our kind were via Ethiopia (via a site known as Omo Kibish) in eastern Africa along with also were dated to be approximately 195,000 years old. 

“We right now have to modify the vision of how the first modern humans emerged,” Prof Hublin told me with an impish grin. 

Before our species evolved there were many different types of primitive human species, each of which looked different along with also had its own strengths along with also weaknesses. along with also these various species of human, just like different animals, evolved along with also changed their appearance gradually, with just the occasional spurt. They did in which over hundreds of thousands of years. 

By contrast, the mainstream view has been in which Homo sapiens evolved suddenly via more primitive humans in East Africa around 0,000 years ago; along with also the idea is actually at in which point in which we assumed, broadly speaking, the features we display right now. What is actually more, only then do we spread throughout Africa along with also eventually to rest of planet. Prof Hublin’s discoveries could appear to shatter in which view. 

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Jean-Jacques Hublin/MPI-EVA, Leipzig

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A lower jaw via a Homo sapiens individual excavated at the Jebel Irhoud site

Jebel Irhoud is actually typical of many archaeological sites across Africa in which date back 300,000 years. Many of these locations have similar tools along with also evidence for the use of fire. What they do not have is actually any fossil remains. 

Because most experts have worked on the assumption in which our species did not emerge until 0,000 years ago, the idea was natural to think therefore in which these different sites were occupied by an older, different species of human. although the Jebel Irhoud finds right now make the idea possible in which the idea was actually Homo sapiens in which left the tool along with also fire evidence in these places. 

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Mohammed Kamal, MPI EVA Leipzig

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A selection of the stone tools recovered by Prof Hublin’s team. The Jebel Irhoud individuals not only looked like us they did things typical of Homo sapiens

“We are not trying to say in which the origin of our species was in Morocco – rather in which the Jebel Irhoud discoveries show in which we know in which [these type of sites] were found all across Africa 300,000 years ago,” said MPI team member Dr Shannon McPhearon. 

Prof Chris Stringer via the Natural History Museum in London, UK, was not involved within the research. He told BBC News: “in which shows in which there are multiple places in Africa where Homo sapiens was emerging. We need to get away via in which idea in which there was just one ‘cradle’.”

along with also he raises the possibility in which Homo sapiens may even have existed outside of Africa at the same time: “We have fossils via Israel in which are probably the same age along with also they show what could be described as proto-Homo sapiens features.” 

Prof Stringer says the idea is actually not inconceivable in which primitive humans who had smaller brains, bigger faces, stronger brow ridges along with also bigger teeth – although who were nonetheless Homo sapiens – may have existed even earlier in time, possibly as far back as half a million years ago. in which is actually a startling shift in what those who study human origins believed not so long ago. 

“I was saying 20 years ago in which the only thing we should be calling Homo sapiens are humans in which look like us. in which was a view in which Homo sapiens suddenly appeared in Africa at some point in time along with also in which was the beginning of our species. although the idea right now looks like I was wrong,” Prof Stringer told BBC News.

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