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Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossil Found in Morocco, Rewriting the Story of Humanity

Jun 08, 2017 06:52 PM EDT
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The Creation Museum will have a hard time with this one. The oldest fossils found so far of the species Homo sapiens have been discovered in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. The fossils date back 300,000 years. So much for the earth only being 10,000 years old. 

The fossils found are estimated to be 100,000 years older than the oldest previously found. What is also a new discovery is that the fossils were found in north Africa. Previous theories had confined the earliest Homo sapiens to east Africa. 

"Our analysis convinced us that this material represents the very root of our species, the oldest Homo sapiens ever found in Africa or elsewhere," said Jean-Jacques Hublin, lead study author, paleoanthropologist and professor at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 

Now scientists believe that the cradle of humankind encompasses all of Africa. 

"I'm not claiming Morocco became the cradle of modern humankind," Hublin said. "Rather, we would support the notion that around 300,000 years ago, very early forms of Homo sapiens were already dispersed all over Africa. This is facilitated by the fact that between 330,000 to 300,000 years before present, Africa did not look like it does today and there was no Sahara Desert. There was a lot of connection between other parts of the continent." 

The dating of the fossils was achieved accurately by a process called thermoluminescence, which measures how much time has passed since a material with crystalline minerals was heated or exposed to sunlight. Found amongst the same layer with the remains were animal bones, stone flints and evidence of fire. it was theorized that the site was a hunting site where animals were cleaned and consumed. The bones were found inside a partially collapsed cave which would have been shelter from the outside world. 

It was also said that the fossils had skulls only slightly different from ours. The brains of Homo sapiens evolved over many years, and scientists noted that the cerebellum in these fossils was not shaped like ours -- it was even larger than the cerebellum in Neandrathals. 

"The story of our species in the last 300,000 years is mostly the evolution of our brain, and in this time period, a number of mutations occurred affecting brain connectivity," Hublin said.

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