Earliest modern human found outside Africa

Modern Humans Failed in Early Attempt to Migrate Out of Africa Old Skull Shows

In findings presented in the journal Nature, an worldwide team of researchers used state-of-the art computer modelling and uranium dating to re-examine the two skulls.

The researchers were surprised to find all of the signatures of an early member of the Homo sapiens family in the Apidima 1 skull. Their age was more than 210 thousand years, reports the online edition of the Chronicle.info with reference to the Correspondent.

Tools that measure age based on uranium decay suggested that even though the two skulls were found side by side, Apidima 1 was about 40,000 years older than the 170,000-year-old Apidima 2. It was found along with another complete skull, Apidima 2, which was identified as belonging to a Neanderthal.

"It shows that the early dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa not only occurred earlier - before 200,000 years ago - but also reached further geographically, all the way to Europe", said Katerina Harvati, a palaeoanthropologist at the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen, in Germany.

The study supports suggestions that Homo sapiens, or modern humans, had ventured out of Africa multiple times but, for various reasons, died out, failing to establish long-lasting populations until an out-of-Africa migration around 60,000 years ago.

But the cave system where they were found allowed for the remains of humans and animals from different time periods to accumulate.

John Hawks, a palaeontologist at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, voiced similar doubts: "Can we really use a small part of the skull like this to recognise our species?" he said.

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

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

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists describe how their analysis confirmed the second skull, which has a thick, rounded brow ridge, as Neanderthal.

The older of the two Apidima skulls does not match the features of the Neanderthals, another extinct human species that once roamed Eurasia, coexisting and possibly interbreeding with modern humans.

Apidima 2 was identified as a Neanderthal, but Apidima 1 wasn't assigned a species.

The bones were incomplete and may have been mixed by mudflow, the study said.

The discovery of an early Homo sapiens skull in Apidima, Southern Greece makes it the earliest known modern human to be found outside of Africa. Melanie Lee Chang, an evolutionary biologist at Portland State University, tells Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post that Apidima 1 is an "outlier", and that she is "not willing to sign on to all of [the researchers'] conclusions here".

But there is uncertainty over the dates for the earliest out-of-Africa dispersals.

Specimens from sites in the Levant (modern day Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan) suggest the first wave of modern humans out of Africa were replaced by Neanderthals, before the final, more successful human migration later on.

A skull unearthed in Greece has been dated to 210,000 years ago, at a time when Europe was occupied by the Neanderthals.

'The earliest people did not leave a genetic contribution to Europeans living today.

There has however been a number of discoveries indicating the ancient presence of Neanderthals - an early human cousin - across the continent.

Dr Joannes-Boyau was part of the team that dated the oldest Homo sapiens remains ever found, 315,000-year-old fossils in Morocco announced in 2017.

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