Uk Fossilised skulls provide earliest known evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia

Uk Fossilised skulls provide earliest known evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia

"Rather than a single exit of hominins from Africa to populate Eurasia, there must have been several dispersals, some of which did not result in permanent occupations", said Mr Delson, who was not involved in the Nature study.

The travelers to Greece evidently left no descendants alive today. Its population was wiped out thousands of years later - to be replaced by the Neanderthals.

Researcher Katerina Harvati and her colleagues, who focus on reevaluating the existing fossil record with cutting-edge dating techniques, were invited to study the Apidima fossils. Their sex is undetermined. The oldest known African fossil attributed to a member of the Homo family is a 2.8 million-year-old jawbone from Ethiopia.

The now accepted story is that modern humans arose about 300,000 years ago, but were mostly constrained to Africa until roughly 120,000 years ago. "We could tell that it was a Neanderthal", Professor Harvati said.

"The earliest people did not leave a genetic contribution to Europeans living today".

These groups of rival hominids arrived at a later date, it is thought, and competed for shelter and food. Southeast Europe is considered to be a major migration corridor out of Africa.

The fossilised and Neanderthal skulls were discovered in Apidima Cave, southern Greece, in the late 1970s.

Instead of throwing these priceless fragments away, they kept them to determine the age of the skulls using a high-tech version of mass spectrometry.

Apidima 2 was identified as a Neanderthal, but Apidima 1 wasn't assigned a species.

The Apidima 1 partial cranium (right) and its reconstruction from posterior view (middle) and side view (left).

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"The most likely scenario is that there were bone deposits elsewhere in the cave system and that some time around 150,000 years ago, these different deposits were washed down the solution pipe and ended up in the same solidified breccia".

According to Faysal Bibi from the Museum for naturkunde in Berlin, the results of the research add in a series of discoveries of the past few years from Israel, or China, the history of Homo sapiens, getting older and more complex seem.

Apidima 1 is now the oldest known European modern human fossil, 160,000 years older than previous discoveries.

Prof Harvati said: "Here we virtually reconstruct both crania, provide detailed comparative descriptions and analyses, and date them". The skull fragments, Apidimia 1 (rear) and Apidima 2 (compelte skull with clear face), had been distorted by the fossilisation process but the new "geometric-morphometric" analysis confirmed that Apidima 2 was an early Neanderthal from around 150,000 years ago.

Apidima 1 lacked classic features associated with Neanderthal skulls, including the distinctive bulge at the back of the head, shaped like hair tied in a bun.

They dispersed out of Africa and across the world, sweeping all before them from about 70,000 years ago, leading to the demise of Neanderthals in Europe around 40,000 years ago.

However, in recent years, we've come to understand that our species ranged outside Africa even earlier and further than we'd previously believed.

A piece of skull found in a cave in Greece suggests our human ancestors left Africa far earlier than anthropologists thought.

The study supports suggestions that Homo sapiens, or modern humans, had ventured out of Africa multiple times but, for various reasons, died out, failing to establish long-lasting populations until an out-of-Africa migration around 60,000 years ago.