Scientists discover oldest known modern human fossil outside of Africa

The maxilla found in a cave in Mount Carmel

The oldest fossils of modern humans outside Africa have been discovered in Israel, a new study finds. The bones were estimated to be up to 120,000 years old.

The ancient jawbone may prove that humans first left Africa as many as 100,000 years earlier than we first thought.

The technique involves chipping away at fragments of stone to form tools, and has been documented in early human specimens found in Africa. But last year archaeologists revealed that a fossil in Morocco shows our ancestors were around at least 300,000 years ago.

Therefore, the latest findings alter the known theories about recent human evolution. Based on fossil record, it was also thought that mankind remained in Africa for at least 140,000 years before finally venturing out to surrounding continents between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.

Through the years, a variety of artifacts suggesting the presence of early humans have been discovered among Carmel's cave complexes. The fossils from Jebel Irhoud date to315,000 years ago and are thus older than Misliya, while those from Omo Kibish (195,000) and Herto (160,000) are similar in age to Misliya (177,000-194,000).

"One of the difficulties for this research was to identify the anatomical features only found in modern humans that leave no doubt about the species to which belonged the maxillary and fossilized teeth of Misliya", says the scientist.

The jaw was found in 2002 in the collapsed Misliya cave on the western slope of Mount Carmel.

"The entire narrative of the evolution of Homo sapiens must be pushed back by at least 100,000-200,000 years", says lead researcher anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University in a statement on the study.




The oldest human fossils discovered to date have been discovered outside Israel, which calls into question our understanding of humanity's migration from Africa.

"During excavations of sediments at Mount Carmel, Israel, they found a fossil of a mouth part, a left hemimaxilla, with nearly complete dentition".

The fossil also had intact teeth.

Stone tools excavated near Misliya-1 are shaped in a sophisticated way, called the Levallois technique. It also fits in with recent discoveries of remains and genetic studies that also indicate an earlier departure from Africa.

"This is an exciting discovery that confirms other suggestions of an earlier migration out of Africa", paleoanthropologist Rolf Quam of Binghamton University in NY, a co-author of the study published in the journal Science, said, according to Reuters.

A fossil discovery in a cave in Israel provides evidence that the oldest-known homo sapiens left Africa, where our species is thought to have originated, far earlier than scientists previously thought.

The Misliya cave and others like it in present-day Israel were like "train stations" that exploring humans used on their way through Europe and Asia. It helps to explain why a modern human fossil was found in China, dated to 120,000 years ago. "The history of our own species-Homo sapiens-is longer and probably more complicated than scientists had previously believed", Hershkovitz says.

And the Misliya-1 fossil is definitely human, not Neanderthal or an early hominin like Homo erectus. The fossils support the idea that modern humans "migrated outside of Africa through the northern route - the Nile Valley and the eastern Mediterranean coast - and not through the southern route - the Bab el Mandeb Strait, the southern coast of Saudi Arabia, the Indian subcontinent, East Asia", Hershkovitz said.

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