A 210,000-year-old partial skull discovered in southern Greece about forty years ago has been identified as the oldest example of modern anatomical technique. Homo sapiens discovered outside the African continent. The discovery, described in a newspaper article Nature, pushes back the known date of our species in Europe of more than 150 000 years.
"Our results suggest that at least two groups of people lived in the Middle Pleistocene in what is now southern Greece: Homo sapiens followed by a Neanderthal population, "said Professor Katerina Harvati, a researcher at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, Germany.
Professor Harvati and his colleagues re-examined two fossilized human skulls discovered in 1978 in Apidima Cave, Mani, in southern Greece.
They practically reconstructed the two specimens, called Apidima 1 and Apidima 2, and proceeded to a detailed comparative description and geometric morphometric analyzes.
They also used U-series radiometric methods to date fossils and surrounding sediments.
"Apidima 2 is about 170,000 years old. We could say that it was a Neanderthal, "said Professor Harvati.
"Surprisingly, Apidima 1 is even older, about 210,000 years old, but has no Neanderthal characteristics. On the contrary, we have revealed a mixture of modern human and primitive characteristics, indicating a Homo sapiens. "
The results support the hypothesis that the former Homo sapiens Spread out of Africa many times.
"The skull of Apidima 1 shows that an early dispersal occurred earlier than expected, and also spread geographically to Europe itself," said Professor Harvati.
"The specimen is over 150,000 years older than the oldest known modern human specimens from Europe to now."
"We hypothesize that, as in the Near East, the modern human population represented by Apidima 1 would probably have been replaced by Neanderthals, whose presence in southern Greece is well documented, particularly by the skull of Apidima 2 from the same site. "
"But the Neanderthals also had to make their way. At the end of the Paleolithic, some 40,000 years ago, newly arrived modern men settled in the region, as in the rest of Europe. Their presence is documented by finely crafted stone tools and other discoveries. Neanderthals disappeared at this time.
"This discovery underscores the importance of Southeast Europe for human evolution."
Katerina Harvati et al. The fossils of the Apidima cave provide the first evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia. Nature, published online July 10, 2019; doi: 10.1038 / s41586-019-1376-z