Remains of earliest modern human outside of Africa found in Israeli cave

Aviv University spokesperson Jawbone from 177 to 194 thousand years ago discovered in Misliya cave in Israel

The new discovery supports the idea that humans migrated out of Africa through a northern route, the Nile valley and the eastern Mediterranean coast, and not a southern route across the Bab al-Mandeb strait, the southern coast of Saudi Arabia, the Indian subcontinent and East Asia, said Tel Aviv University paleoanthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, who led the study.

Before that, the oldest evidence of humans outside Africa came from the Skhul and Qafzeh archaeological sites in Israel, and were dated to between 90,000 and 125,000 years ago.

The fossil, dated to almost 200,000 years ago, suggests our ancestors left Africa, where they originated, far earlier than previously thought, said Dr John Murray of NUIG School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

"It provides the clearest evidence yet that our ancestors first migrated out of Africa much earlier than we previously believed", said Rolf Quam, an anthropologist at Binghamton University, and one of the authors.

"Misliya really changes our perception of modern human evolution", Gerhard Weber, study coauthor and professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Vienna, said in an email. Burnt flints - indicating tool use - were also found nearby in the same soil layer.

"Honestly, we were extremely surprised", says Hershkovitz. But a month after leading paleoanthropologists formally called for a rewrite of the timeline for humans leaving Africa, a stunning find in Israel pushes the revised date back even further.

That date range makes Misliya-1 the oldest human fossils outside Africa as well as a contemporary of the humans found at Herto and Omo Kibish in Ethiopia.

Scientists digging in an Israeli cave uncovered a fossilized jawbone from what they believe is the earliest modern human found outside of Africa.

This age range "fits very well in the model that's now emerging of a very ancient history of our species, much older than we have thought", says Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who led the team that made the 2017 Jebel Irhoud find. When they compared the anatomical details of the Misliya specimen to those of fossils belonging to modern humans and their relatives, the jaw bone grouped most closely with H. sapiens.

A detailed analysis of the jawbone and the teeth confirmed that it indeed belonged to someone of our species, Homo sapiens.

"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", he added. The presence of stone tools made using the Levallois technique, a distinctive stone knapping method, is consistent with those used by humans during the Middle Paleolithic, from 300,000 to 30,000 years ago.

According to press release from the university Professor Hershkovitz led a team of Israeli and worldwide anthropologists who conducted a study based on the finding, which will be published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

Weinstein-Evron says she and her team wanted to find out which species of ancient humans lived in the cave.

It might feel like we're always pushing dates further back into history; last year the dating of a fossil pushed back the origins of anatomically modern humans in Africa by a whole 100,000 years. This means humans reached the region at least 50,000 years earlier than expected.

Today there is just one global population of humans.

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