Source: http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/anthropology/oldest-modern-human-fossil-israel-05667.html



Oldest Modern-Human Fossil Outside Africa Found in Israel
Jan 26, 2018 by News Staff / Source

An upper jawbone complete with teeth found at a site called Misliya Cave, part of a complex of prehistoric caves along the western slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel, shifts the estimated timeframe for when humans first left Africa, suggesting they did so 40,000-50,000 years earlier than previously thought. A report on the discovery is published in the journal Science.

The fossil, dubbed Misliya-1, is estimated to be between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, based on three independent dating methods (U-series, combined uranium series and electron spin resonance series, and thermoluminescence).

It exhibits teeth that are in the upper size range of what’s seen in modern humans, but that otherwise shows clear patterns and features of our species.

An international team of paleoanthropologists analyzed the fossil relying on microCT scans and 3D virtual models and compared it with other hominin fossils from Africa, Europe and Asia.

“While all of the anatomical details in Misliya-1 are fully consistent with modern humans, some features are also found in Neanderthals and other human groups,” said team member Dr. Rolf Quam, from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Stone tools excavated near Misliya-1 are shaped in a sophisticated way, called the Levallois technique.

Tools shaped this way have been discovered in a cave close by, but the material at Misliya represents the earliest known association of the Levallois technique with modern human fossils in the region.

“The inhabitants of Misliya Cave were capable hunters of large game species such as aurochs, Persian fallow deer and gazelles, routinely used fire, made a wide use of plants and produced an Early Middle Paleolithic stone tool kit, employing sophisticated innovative techniques, similar to those found with the earliest modern humans in Africa,” said team member Dr. Mina Weinstein-Evron, fro mthe Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa.

While older fossils of modern humans have been found in Africa, the timing and routes of modern human migration out of Africa are key issues for understanding the evolution of our own species.

“The region of the Middle East represents a major corridor for hominin migrations during the Pleistocene and has been occupied at different times by both modern humans and Neanderthals. This new discovery opens the door to demographic replacement or genetic admixture with local populations earlier than previously thought,” Dr. Quam said.

“The evidence from Misliya is consistent with recent suggestions based on ancient DNA for an earlier migration, prior to 220,000 years ago, of modern humans out of Africa.”

“If the Misliya-1 fossil dates to roughly 170,000-190,000 years ago, the entire narrative of the evolution of Homo sapiens must be pushed back by at least 100,000-200,000 years,” said team leader Dr. Israel Hershkovitz, of Tel Aviv University.

“In other words, if modern humans started traveling out of Africa some 200,000 years ago, it follows that they must have originated in Africa at least 300,000-500,000 years ago.”

“Until now, the earliest remains of modern human found outside of Africa, at the Skhul and Qafzeh caves in Israel, were dated to 90,000-120,000 years ago.”

“Our research makes sense of many recent anthropological and genetic finds,” he added.

“About a year ago, scientists reported finding the remains of modern humans in China dating to about 80,000-100,000 years ago. This suggested that their migration occurred earlier than previously thought, but until our discovery at Misliya, we could not explain it.”

“Numerous different pieces of the puzzle — the occurrence of the earliest modern human in Misliya, evidence of genetic mixture between Neanderthals and humans, modern humans in China — now fall into place.”

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Israel Hershkovitz et al. 2018. The earliest modern humans outside Africa. Science 359 (6374): 456-459; doi: 10.1126/science.aap8369