Jaw unearthed in Israeli cave redefines understanding of how humans left Africa

Aviv University spokesperson Jawbone from 177 to 194 thousand years ago discovered in Misliya cave in Israel

Researchers conduct year-long studies to analyse the fragment of a jawbone with eight teeth and it seems like the fossil is of a modern human being rather than a old one.

The fossil, dubbed Misliya-1, is estimated to be between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, based on three independent dating methods (U-series, combined uranium series and electron spin resonance series, and thermoluminescence).

Prof Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the study, said: "The find breaks the long-established 130,000-year-old limit on modern humans outside of Africa".

In presenting the dating evidence for the Misliya find, however, Hershkovitz and his team say their discovery "opens the door" to the possibility that dispersal from Africa occurred "probably" more than 200,000 years ago, citing the Posth as supporting evidence.

A jawbone complete with teeth discovered at a cave in Israel suggests that our ancestors left Africa at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought. However, with the new discovery, scientists believe that's needed to push back the modern human history with more than 200,000 years.

Archaeologists at the site have found evidence that suggests these early humans were hunter-gatherer communities that were capable of building fire & working with small tools similar to those found in Africa during the same time period.

"Our species", Hershkovitz added, "is a genetic mishmash of several hominins". Multiple lines of evidence show that Neanderthals and other humans native to Europe and Asia often hunted big game.

"This fossil is the strongest indication to date that our ancestors emigrated from Africa much earlier than we thought until the then", he says.

Our genes don't lie, and according to population genetics studies, most modern-day populations outside Africa can trace their roots to a group that dispersed around 60,000 ago. New discoveries that predate our understanding of humankind beg us all to reanalyze our own beliefs and understandings about how we became to be.

Longtime readers of Dead Things who know how obsessed I am with the fossils found at Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia may be wondering why the Misliya jawbone, at less than 200,000 years, is considered the oldest human fossil outside Africa.

"Numerous different pieces of the puzzle - the occurrence of the earliest modern human in Misliya, evidence of genetic mixture between Neanderthals and humans, modern humans in China - now fall into place", Professor Hershkovitz, who heads the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research at Tel Aviv University, said.

The tools found alongside Misliya-1 use a flint-knapping technique called "Levallois", which is a pretty sophisticated way to make stone tools. Homo sapiens were still late to the party, just not as late as we thought.

The Misliya find may also suggest that a certain technological breakthrough helped fuel our march to world domination. By finding tools in the region, we have a better idea of how the Misliya people lived.

For early humans, the Levant was the gateway to everything beyond Africa. That's about when we'd assumed humans were just leaving Africa. If Levallois tools are associated with the spread of modern humans into the area, it suggests that our species may have journeyed beyond Africa even earlier than the dates for the Misliya material.

Mina Weinstein-Evron, a researcher from the University of Haifa and one of the authors of the paper, told the Smithsonian that "When we started the project we were presumptuous enough to name it 'Searching for the origins of modern Homo sapiens..."

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