Newly Discovered Oldest Human Fossils Push Our Origin Back By 100,000 Years

A reconstruction of the skull belonging to the earliest example of our own species, Homo sapiens. Philipp Gunz/MPI EVA Leipzig/License: CC-BY-SA 2.0

The earliest fossils belonging to our own species, Homo sapiens, have been uncovered in the arid mountains of Morocco. Discovered in a cave full of stone tools and other animal bones, the human remains push the origin of humans back by a stunning 100,000 years.

The findings are reported in two studies published in Nature, and could alter how we think our species evolved. Comprehensive dating puts the extensive remains – which represent three adults, an adolescent, and a child – at around 300,000 years old. This is much earlier than the previous oldest human remains discovered in Ethiopia that date to roughly 200,000 years old.

“This is much older than anything else in Africa that we could relate to our species,” said team lead Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Plank Institute to IFLScience. “In light of this new date – at 300,000 years old – it convinced us that this material that we present is the very root of our species. The oldest Homo sapiens ever found in Africa.”

The team dated the bones by using the vast collection of flint tools found alongside the fossil remains. They employed a technique known as thermoluminescence to measure the level of accumulation of radiation in the artifacts to establish an accurate age of the objects. The researchers attempted to extract genetic material from the bones, but found that the fossils were too old and the environment too dry to yield any results.

A jaw bone from the oldest Homo sapien fossils ever discovered. Jean-Jacques Hublin/MPI EVA Leipzig
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