NEW YORK (AP) – Scientists claim to have identified the first sign of our species outside of Africa, a piece of skull found in a cave in southern Greece.
His age is estimated at least 210,000 years old, at least 16,000 years older than an upper jaw bone of Israel reported last year. This shows that our species started leaving Africa much earlier than expected, researchers reported Wednesday.
Travelers to Greece have apparently left no descendants alive today. Other research has established that the exodus from Africa that has led to our global spread has not occurred before more than 100,000 years later. This new work is the last sign of impasse exits from the continent where Homo sapiens has evolved.
The fossil, located at the back of a skull, was actually discovered several decades ago. It was unearthed in the late 1970s in Apidima Cave, in southern Peloponnese, and then kept in a museum of the University of Athens.
"We did not pay attention," said Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, invited to study the fossil.
Harvati and others report the results of their analysis in the journal Nature. To establish the age, they analyzed fossil bones fragments. To identify which species they came from, the researchers compared a virtual reconstruction to the form of known species fossils.
Harvati said finding evidence that our species had reached Greece at that time was a surprise, although in retrospect "it is not so difficult to imagine that it would have happened".
Eric Delson of Lehman College in New York, who did not participate in the study, said the discovery was somewhat surprising, but that Southeast Europe "had a lot of meaning "for such an ancient discovery. Now the question is what happened to these people, he said. Did the Neanderthals compete with them?
But some other scientists are not convinced that the declared age of the fossil and its identification are correct.
Warren Sharp, an expert in fossil dating at the Berkeley California Geochronology Center, said the age of 210,000 was "not well supported by the data".
Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York described the case of fossil identification as being H. sapiens "rather fragile". Its form is suggestive but incomplete and lacks features that would make identification more robust, he said in an email.
In response, Harvati stated that the back of the skull was very useful for differentiating H. sapiens from Neanderthals and other related species, and that several data sources supported the study. identification.
At a press conference, Harvati said it was not clear if scientists would be able to recover DNA or fossil proteins to confirm his identity.
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