[B]ones of the former occupants [of a Moroccan cave called Jebel Irhoud] have been recently unearthed by an international team of scientists. They mark the earliest fossilized remains of Homo sapiens ever found. Until now, that honor belonged to two Ethiopian fossils that are 160,000 and 195,000 years old respectively. But the Jebel Irhoud bones, and the stone tools that were uncovered with them, are far older—around 315,000 years old, with a possible range of 280,000 to 350,000 years.
It’s not just when these people died that matters, but where.
“What people, including myself, used to think was that there was a cradle of humankind in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, and all modern humans descend from that population,” says Philipp Gunz from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “The new finds indicate that Homo sapiens is much older and had already spread across all of Africa by 300,000 years ago.”
These people had very similar faces to today’s humans, albeit with slightly more prominent brows. But the backs of their heads were very different…Their brains, though already as large as ours, must also have been shaped differently.
[Read the full study here]
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