Scientists claim to have identified the oldest sign of our species outside of Africa with the recovery of a piece of skull in a cave in southern Greece.
It is estimated that the skull is at least 210,000 years old, giving the fossil 16 years or older more than a bone of the upper jaw in Israel, which was once believed to be the oldest modern human discovery outside of Africa.
If checked, the new The analysis can prove that Homo sapiens started leaving Africa much earlier than expected.
The fossil in question – a segment of the back of a skull – was discovered several decades ago during a excavation in the late 1970s of the Apidima cave in the southern Peloponnese region and then kept in a Museum of the University of Athens.
According to Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingen, Germany, who was invited to do so, it is possible to study the discovery in detail only through new technologies.
"We can now produce a scanner to try to restore the specimen to its original anatomy," said Harvati, who reported the results of their analysis in Wednesday's journal Nature.
"We dissected practically more than 60 small bone fragments and tried to put them back in their original position and remove the sediments from the cracks," she said, adding that two teams different criteria produced four unique reconstructions, which were then analyzed.
"We compared them to other fossil skulls from all over Europe and Africa in the same period or a similar period," Harvati said.
The researchers concluded that the cranial fragment, called Apidima 1, came from a Homo sapien. He was found with another complete skull, Apidima 2, identified as belonging to a Neanderthal.
Excitement and uncertainty
Other human fossils discovered outside of Africa suggest brief adventures prior to the massive departure of Homo sapiens some 70,000 years ago, when the species found their way back to Africa. Is extended from the mainland to colonize vast expanses of territory around the world.
The scientists concluded that such excursions were failures, with the disappearance of Homo sapiens, leaving no genetic legacy to the living people today.
Some scientists felt that it was "quite logical" to find a Homo sapien fossil in southeastern Europe, while others were less convinced.
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, has pleaded for the identification of the fossil as a "rather fragile" Homo sapien ".
Its form is suggestive, he told The Associated Press, but it is incomplete and lacks features that would make identification more robust.
In response, Harvati said that the back of the skull was very useful for differentiating Homo sapiens from Neanderthals and other related species and that several sources of evidence identification.
However, she said at a press conference that it was not clear whether scientists would be able to recover DNA or fossil proteins to confirm their theories.