Cave bones reveal modern humans not so modern after all

10 2019 by Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen shows a reconstruction and computer model of part of a skull named Apidima 2 discovered in a Greek cave which was determined in a study to have the characteristics

10 2019 by Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen shows a reconstruction and computer model of part of a skull named Apidima 2 discovered in a Greek cave which was determined in a study to have the characteristics

Recent analysis of a Homo sapiens skull, discovered decades ago in Greece, dates the cranium to about 210,000 years ago. The discovery, described in a paper in the journal Nature, pushes back the known date of our species in Europe by more than 150,000 years.

But no-one alive today is related to the individual. They seemed to have been around for several thousands of years.

Researchers used cutting edge technology, including virtual reconstructions of the damaged parts of the skulls to discover more about the origins of the fossils. Their sex is undetermined. "We could tell that it was a Neanderthal", says Greek researcher Katerina Harvati, director of paleoanthropology at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in Germany. That's because it was rounded in a way that's unique to modern humans, Harvati said.

Professor Havarti agreed that these early modern human died out, and were probably later replaced by Neanderthals, who were then replaced in turn by modern humans around 40,000 year ago. It was not one exodus out of Africa but lots of small ones.

"[The Apidima 1 population] would have been part of this early dispersal that didn't leave a genetic contribution to later Eurasians living today", she said.
"These were small populations that made it all the way to Greece".

Initially, scientists thought them to be Neanderthal.

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 one of those major migration corridors out of Africa.

An global team - including Manchester University experts - used modern dating and imaging techniques, such as CT scanning, to perform a detailed analysis of the skulls known as Apidima 1 and Apidima 2. But the Jebel Irhoud fossils display more primitive features than Apidima 1.

The incomplete nature of the Apidima 1 skull may leave some experts uncertain about its true origin, wrote Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist from City University of NY, in a commentary that accompanied the study. Because of its characteristics, such as a rounded back of the head to associate it to an early Form of Homo sapiens.

New dating of the Neanderthal-esque Apidima 2 fell in line with previous estimates: about 170,000 years old.

And it adds more weight to the theory that modern humans migrated out of Africa multiple times, before Homo sapiens became the last human species standing. But new techniques have allowed for further analysis of the skull, and scientists found to their astonishment that it is in fact a 210,000-year-old skull belonging to a Homo sapiens.

An artist's reconstruction of an anatomically modern Homo sapiens.

The team said this supported the hypothesis that early modern humans spread out of Africa, where they evolved, multiple times.

Prof Harvati said: "Here we virtually reconstruct both crania, provide detailed comparative descriptions and analyses, and date them".

Based on the skull shapes alone, it is clear there are significant differences: Apidima 2 is more complete and shows similarities to Neanderthals, while Apidima 1 is reminiscent of modern human fossils.

"These results suggest that two late Middle Pleistocene human groups were present at this site - an early Homo sapiens population followed by a Neanderthal population".

Within the outdated couple of years, palaeontologists bear came all over contemporary human fossils from Daoxian and Zhirendong in China relationship to between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago.

Notícias recomendadas

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.