Is this skull unearthed in Israel the ‘missing link’ in human evolution that scientists have been hoping for?

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Tel Aviv University Professor Israel Hershkovitz holds what scientists say are two pieces of fossilized bone of a previously unknown kind of early human. Credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters
Tel Aviv University Professor Israel Hershkovitz holds what scientists say are two pieces of fossilized bone of a previously unknown kind of early human. Credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters

[A newly discovered] hominin, or early human, has been named Nesher Ramla, after the site outside the city of Ramla where researchers found its skull, jaw, and teeth. Co-author Professor Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University says around 140,000 years ago, a very unique group of people lived in Israel. They are believed to be the missing population that mated with Homo sapiens who arrived in the region around 200,000 years ago.

Scientists created virtual 3D reconstructions from the fossilized remains discovered 26 feet beneath ground level at a cement mining plant. Prof. Hershkovitz adds they share features with both Neanderthals – especially the teeth and jaws – and early Homo, specifically the skull. At the same time, it is very unlike modern humans – displaying a completely different skull structure, no chin, and very large teeth.

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Researchers found the fossilized remains alongside stone tools and many human and animal bones, including those of horses, fallow deer, and aurochs. The stunning discovery solves one of the biggest mysteries of human evolution: when and where Neanderthal ancestors arrived in Europe.

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