The fossilized remains of five early humans discovered in Morocco suggest our species is at least 100,000 years older than previously thought, according to new research published Wednesday.
The study suggests our species evolved all across the African continent, not in a small region as previously believed. Scientists dated the fossils to between 300,000 and 350,000 years old and the skulls found are almost identical to those belonging to modern humans.
“It is not the story of it happening in a rapid way in a ‘Garden of Eden’ somewhere in Africa,” Dr. Jean-Jacques Hublin, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany who was involved in the discovery, told BBC News. “Our view is that it was a more gradual development and it involved the whole continent. So if there was a Garden of Eden, it was all of Africa.”
Hublin said his team’s discovery will “rewrite the textbooks.”
Previously, the earliest modern human fossils found in Ethiopia were dated to be around 195,000 years old. Scientists believed modern humans evolved suddenly from more primitive human populations in East Africa.
It was thought that only after settling Ethiopia did humanity spread throughout Africa and eventually to rest of the world.
“This shows that there are multiple places in Africa where Homo sapiens was emerging,” Chris Stringer, a professor at the Natural History Museum in London who was not involved in the research, told BBC News. “We need to get away from this idea that there was a single ‘cradle’.”
The study also indicated these ancient humans may have employed stone tools and used fire.
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