Oldest Homo Sapiens Bones Ever Found Shake Foundations of the Human Story
By: Ian Sample for The Guardian on June 8, 2017
Two views of a composite reconstruction of the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils from Jebel Irhoud The braincase (blue) indicates that brain shape, and possibly brain function, evolved within the Homo sapiens lineage. Photograph: Credit: Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig
Fossils recovered from an old mine on a desolate mountain in Morocco have rocked one of the most enduring foundations of the human story: that Homo sapiens arose in a cradle of humankind in East Africa 200,000 years ago.
Archaeologists unearthed the bones of at least five people at Jebel Irhoud, a former barite mine 100km west of Marrakesh, in excavations that lasted years. They knew the remains were old, but were stunned when dating tests revealed that a tooth and stone tools found with the bones were about 300,000 years old.
“My reaction was a big ‘wow’,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, a senior scientist on the team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. “I was expecting them to be old, but not that old.”