Oldest human fossil outside Africa dug up in Israel

Misliya cave on the western slopes of Mount Carmel

"Perhaps the co-occurrence of this tool type with early Homo sapiens at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco-and now with modern humans at Misliya-indicates some association of the development of this technology in Africa and western Asia with the emergence of Homo sapiens in these regions". Once there, humans probably encountered and interbred with Neanderthals, Hershkowitz says, pointing to a 2017 ancient-DNA study that suggested interbreeding had occurred before 200,000 years ago. Two cave sites in Israel - Qafzeh and Skhul - have yielded numerous skeletons of early modern humans.

An global team that includes Tel Aviv University, Binghamton University and the University of NY has announced the discovery of the earliest modern human fossil to be found outside of Africa dating from 50,000 years ago. The jawbone is almost twice as old as the next oldest Homo sapien fossil found outside of Africa.

Anthropologists earlier believed that modern humans appeared in Africa some 160,000-200,000 years ago, and that modern humans evolved in Africa and started migrating out of Africa almost 100,000 years ago.

"The dating had to be rock solid", said Rolf M. Quam, an anthropologist at Binghamton University in NY and an author of the paper. They also analyzed the remains using microCT scans and 3D virtual models to compare it with other hominin fossils discovered in parts of Africa, Europe and Asia.

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"We have to rewrite the whole story of human evolution, not just for our own species but all the other species that lived outside of Africa at the time", the researcher, from, explained. Instead, we believe that Homo sapiens evolved somewhere else in Africa and dispersed across the entire continent.

"Together with the discovery past year of the earliest modern humans in Africa, our views about our origins are beginning to change very rapidly, after decades of near scientific stagnation".

By dating burned flint flakes found at the site, archaeologists had determined that it was occupied 250,000 to 160,000 years ago, during an era known as the Early Middle Paleolithic. It also supports the theory that humans had left the continent more than 200,000 years ago.

The tests also found that the base of the cheek bone was located above the first molar, the incisors lacked a shovel shape, and the premolars were high and narrow, all characteristics found in modern humans and not Neanderthals. Over the last decade, scientists have uncovered evidence that suggests the mass exodus was preceded by earlier, smaller migrations out of Africa, some as far back as 120,000 years ago. New discoveries that predate our understanding of humankind beg us all to reanalyze our own beliefs and understandings about how we became to be. But scientists say that it is unclear whether the fossils represent a brief incursion or a more-lasting expansion of the species.

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Levallois tools have been uncovered in Europe that are nearly 300,000 years old.

Mina Weinstein-Evron, a researcher from the University of Haifa and one of the authors of the paper, told the Smithsonian that "When we started the project we were presumptuous enough to name it 'Searching for the origins of modern Homo sapiens..."

Known as Misliya-1, the partial maxilla, with several teeth preserved in situ, is 177,000 to 194,000 years old.

Another interesting aspect of the discovery is the tools found alongside the fossil, says Julia Galway-Witham, a paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London.

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The fossil jaw and tools, presented today in the journal Science, challenges now accepted ideas about how modern humans dispersed from Africa, according to Peter Hiscock, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney.

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