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They are the remains of the first modern humans who left Africa.
They were identified by a study of a group of researchers in Israel and their analysis indicates that homo sapiens was already living outside Africa 185,000 years ago, some 80,000 years earlier than previously thought.
“We have to rewrite the entire history of human evolution, not only for our own species but for all the others who lived outside Africa by then,” Israel Hershkovitz, a professor at Tel Aviv University who co-directed the research, told the BBC. which has just been published in the journal Science .
Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the study, said that this discovery breaks with the long-established belief that humans first settled outside of Africa 130,000 years ago.
“The new date indicates that there could even be findings of even older homo sapiens in the region of western Asia,” Stringer said.
The new discovery raises the possibility that modern humans could interact for thousands of years with other human species, now extinct . It also coincides with recent finds of remains and genetic studies that also suggest an early exit from Africa.
The researchers analyzed a fragment of a jaw with eight teeth, found in 2002 in the cave of Misliya, located on the western slope of Mount Carmel (Israel).
The jaw seemed to belong to a modern human rather than to any of the other human species that existed at that time, but it has only been now when an international group of researchers has conclusively demonstrated that the initial perception of archaeologists was correct.
To confirm that the jaw belonged to a modern human, the researchers performed a CT scan, built a 3D virtual model and compared it with ancient human fossils from Africa, Europe and Asia, as well as with the remains of modern humans.
The completion of several scans allowed the researchers to explore the tissue beneath the dental crowns, where they found that there was a unique link with modern humans .
Three different methods to determine the age of the jaw, applied in three separate laboratories that were unaware of the results of the others, concluded that the fossilized remains were between 177,000 and 194,000 years old.
Before this study, the oldest evidence of the presence of humans outside Africa came from the archaeological sites of Skhul and Qafzeh, also in Israel, which is estimated to be between 90,000 and 125,000 years old.
The remains of Misliya were found in a layer of earth in which there were also stone tools belonging to the Levallois type, which were used in the region between 250,000 and 140,000 years ago.
If the Levallois tools are associated with the way modern humans were scattered throughout the region, then that suggests that our species may have traveled out of Africa in a period even before the remains found in the cave.
Until recently, the oldest evidence of excursions outside that continent was limited to the Levante area.
But in recent years there have been finds of fossils of modern humans in Daoxian and Zhirendong, in China, with an estimated age between 80,000 and 120,000 years, suggesting that there were early migratory waves that entered Eurasia earlier than they were. I believed
Additionally, genetic studies have shown traces of early crosses between human Africans and our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals.
Last year, a group of researchers published evidence from Neanderthal remains in Germany of crosses that occurred between 219,000 and 460,000 years ago.
Similarly, in 2016 researchers found signs of pioneer groups Á f rich who mixed with neandertales in the Altai region , Siberian, 100,000 years ago.
“We had so many pieces of new evidence and we did not know how they fit,” said Hershkovitz.
“Now with the new discovery, everything finds its place, an exodus possibly occurred 250,000 years ago, which is the date of the tools found in the cave of Misliya,” he added.
However, it is believed that the first excursions of the African homo sapiens reflected in Misliya ended in extinction.
Genetic and archaeological studies suggest that the ancestors of people living outside Africa today come from an exodus that occurred only 60,000 years ago . Most DNA studies have failed to find evidence in our genes of these older migrations.
Other discoveries have shed light on how humans in Africa evolved anatomically to become modern. Last year a team of researchers announced the discovery of fossils that are believed to be early versions of homo sapiens in Morocco and whose age is estimated at about 315,000 years.
That is much more than the 200,000 years old that is generally considered as the date of the beginning of our species and that is based on genetic studies and fossil finds such as the remains of Omo, of 195,000 years, found in Ethiopia.