Modern humans may have been in Europe 150,000 years earlier than thought

Discussion in 'SHH Community Forum' started by jolldan, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. jolldan

    jolldan Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2014
    Messages:
    2,483
    Likes Received:
    1,813
    Modern humans may have been in Europe 150,000 years earlier than thought
    [​IMG]
    By reanalysing human skull fragments discovered four decades ago in Greece, an international team of researchers now believe that an early modern human migration out of Africa may have reached Europe by at least 210,000 years ago.


    This pushes back the known date of Homo sapiens in the region by more than 150,000 years.

    The new analysis involved two partial skulls discovered in Apidima Cave, southern Greece, in 1978.

    Both fossils, named Apidima 1 and Apidima 2, were initially dated to at least 160,000 years old, but there has always been doubt about this figure. The two fragments were first discovered wedged high up between two cave walls, meaning that they lacked any associated context that would have made the dating more accurate.

    By looking at the shapes of the skulls, it was clear that there were some significant differences between them, which cast further doubt on them being the same age.

    The Apidima 2 cranium was more complete and showed similarities to the skulls of Neanderthals discovered in both Gibraltar and Italy. Apidima 1 was more reminiscent of modern human fossils that date to around 100,000 years old.
    [​IMG]
    The more complete Apidima 2 (top) shows more Neanderthal-like features compared to the small skull fragment of Apidima 1 (bottom). © Harvati et al. 2019

    The Museum's Prof Chris Stringer, a lead merit researcher and expert on human evolution, co-authored the latest analysis published in Nature.

    'When we submitted the first draft of our paper for possible publication, the reviewers were naturally sceptical that there was a modern human fossil from Greece found alongside an early Neanderthal fossil, with both of them dating from at least 160,000 years ago,' says Chris.

    'So we conducted further analyses and dating work, which produced even more surprises.'

    Differing dates

    The team used a technique known as Uranium series to date not only the sediments still surrounding the fossils, but also the bone itself.

    When it came to the more Neanderthal-like skull of Apidima 2, the new dating fell in line with the previous estimates, yielding an age of 170,000 years old. It was when the researchers dated Apidima 1 that the surprises came.

    If they are correct, this skull fragment dates to at least 210,000 years ago, far earlier than expected.

    There have been suggestions that the fossil's lack of Neanderthal-like features could indicate that it belonged to an early Neanderthal that had yet to develop the associated morphological traits. But the team's detailed analysis suggests that this is not the case, and that it does indeed belong to Homo sapiens.
    [​IMG]
    Even though the skulls were not complete, the researchers were able to reconstruct what they may have looked like. © Harvati et al. 2019

    This implies that when modern humans made early migrations out of Africa, they may have travelled far wider than initially thought, even making it to the eastern edges of Europe.

    'Our scenario suggests that there was an early modern group of humans in Greece by 210,000 years ago, perhaps related to comparable populations in the Near East, but that this group was then subsequently replaced by a Neanderthal population - represented by Apidima 2 - by about 170,000 years ago,' says Chris.

    Early European humans

    We know modern humans had made multiple early forays out of Africa before the major dispersal event that led to H. sapiens successfully colonising the rest of the world around 60,000 years ago. Early H. sapiens fossils from Israel are known at about 170,000 and 120,000 years old.

    These early dispersal events are not thought to have been particularly successful. Researchers believe that H. sapiens only truly became a global species during a later migration, spreading out across much of Asia and down into Australia after about 60,000 years ago.

    Even then, the earliest dates for the arrival of modern humans in Europe come in at roughly 42,000 years ago. This may now have to change.
    [​IMG]
    The skulls were found in the Mani region of southern Greece. © orientalizing/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    'If these latest analyses are correct, H. sapiens entered Europe over 150,000 years earlier than we thought, raising a whole new range of questions and possibilities including where they came from and what happened to them,' explains Chris.

    'The most likely route from Africa would have been through the Near East, and the existence of such early sapiens groups outside Africa has already been suspected from enigmatic signs of early DNA exchanges between Neanderthal and H. sapiens populations.'

    The dating suggests that there may be further evidence for these modern human populations in Europe and the surrounding regions, and it could be just that researchers have not been looking for them.

    'Unfortunately, there are no stone tools directly associated with either of the Apidima crania to help in establishing connections elsewhere,' says Chris. 'But if we have interpreted the Apidima evidence correctly then the handiwork of these early H. sapiens must be present elsewhere in the European record.'
     
    Teelie likes this.
  2. psylockolussus

    psylockolussus Spice Mutant

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2004
    Messages:
    40,537
    Likes Received:
    1,858
    This stuff intrigues but the only real way to find the origins of modern humans is through time travel., literally going back in time and observe what happened in those early years. No matter how much evidences/answers they get from decades of researching, there are just things that would not be recovered from the past, unless somehow someone goes to back in time, physically and not miss a single detail.
     
  3. Marvolo

    Marvolo Registered

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    Messages:
    40,129
    Likes Received:
    2,471
    Humans have always been curious and exploring their environment. There were probably some small amount of humans exploring up to europe from the time humans first appeared on earth. Some small amount of brave, curious, or stupid humans that wanted to see what was over the horizon.
     
    Teelie likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice
monitoring_string = "afb8e5d7348ab9e99f73cba908f10802"