Science

Human skull found in Greek cave is oldest ever discovered outside Africa

Human skull found in Greek cave is oldest ever discovered outside Africa”

But the latest findings, in no way, can exclude the possibility that H. sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted in southeastern Europe more than 2 lakh years ago and occasionally interbred also.

The discovery suggests Homo Sapiens migrated out of Africa on multiple occasions before conquering the world.

"Our results suggest that at least two groups of people lived in the Middle Pleistocene in what is now southern Greece: an early population of Homo sapiens and, later, a group of Neanderthals", lead study author Katerina Harvati, from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment at the University of Tübingen in Germany, explained.

The breccia was dated to between 100,000 and 190,000 years old at the time.

The two partial skulls were not near anything that offered archaeologists useful clues about their origin: no stone tools, no animal remains, nothing.

"We hypothesize that, as in the Near East, the early modern human population represented by Apidima 1 was probably replaced by Neanderthals, whose presence in southern Greece is well documented, including by the Apidima 2 skull from the same site", Prof Harvati said. But the other shows clear characteristics, such as a rounded back to the skull, diagnostic of modern humans.

Harvati and her colleagues took CT scans of the fossils and created virtual 3D reconstructions. The shape of each skull was compared with those of other species from the fossil record.

"The advantage of the method is that is uses up a very little amount of material and that gives us an opportunity to date valuable fossils like the Apidima skulls", Professor Grun said.

Homo sapiens replaced Neanderthals across Europe for good around up to 45,000 years ago, in what was long considered a gradual takeover of the continent involving millennia of co-existence and even interbreeding. Previously known Homo sapiens remains in Europe are more than 150,000 years younger.

Researchers claim nobody alive today is related to the individual found in the Apidima cave as the population the individual belonged to was eradicated during conflict with the neanderthals.

Two fossilized human crania (Apidima 1 and Apidima 2) from Apidima Cave, were discovered in the late 1970s.

Warren Sharp, an expert on dating fossils at the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California, said the age of 210,000 years is "not well supported by the data". Previously, it had been assumed they would both be the same age, given that they were found in the same breccia and only the breccia was initially dated. "They persisted for a long time in Israel".

The cave is reachable only by water now. "Neanderthals became extinct around this time". The cave overlooked a coastal plain that was probably ideal for hunting, while the cave itself provided shelter. The researchers say that since one skull is older than the other, each must have originally been deposited in different sediment layers before ending up about 30 centimeters apart on the cave wall. Did Neanderthals out-compete them?

Then, Neanderthals lived in the area.

'Our results indicate it is an early modern human - about 210,000 years old.

This would make it the oldest out-of-Africa human skull ever discovered.

Many questions remain for the researchers.

Our traditional narratives and implicit assumptions of the evolutionary history of modern humans are well and truly broken.



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