Last updated January 29, 2018 at 10:28 am
Our ancestors may have left Africa 50,000 years earlier than previous thought.
Researchers have discovered the earliest modern human fossil ever found outside of Africa, in Mislaya cave on Mount Carmel in Israel.
“Misliya is an exciting discovery,” says Rolf Quam, Binghamton University anthropology professor and a coauthor of a study into the find.
“It provides the clearest evidence yet that our ancestors first migrated out of Africa much earlier than we previously believed.
“It also means that modern humans were potentially meeting and interacting during a longer period of time with other archaic human groups, providing more opportunity for cultural and biological exchanges.”
Quam’s team applied several dating techniques to the fossil, which consists of an upper jawbone with several teeth.
Misliya fossil consistent with modern humans
The tests suggest the jawbone is between 175,000-200,000 years old – at least 50,000 years older than our previous estimates for when modern humans left Africa.
One of the challenges was to identify features in Misliya that are found only in modern humans.
“While all of the anatomical details in the Misliya fossil are fully consistent with modern humans, some features are also found in Neanderthals and other human groups,” said Quam.
The inhabitants of Misliya Cave were capable hunters of large game, used typical Early Middle Palaeolithic stone tools and controlled fire – all consistent with the earliest modern humans in Africa.
The Middle East was a major corridor for hominin migrations during the Pleistocene and has been occupied by both modern humans and Neanderthals.
This new discovery is important, because it means we now must consider that genetic mixing with local populations may have occurred earlier than we have previously.
The research was published in Science Magazine.