A team of scientists in Morocco have found the fossil remains of five individuals they believe are the most ancient modern humans ever found. At over 300-thousand years old, they are 100-thousand years older than other Homo sapiens remains.
The discovery was made in a remote area of Morocco called Jebel Irhoud.
The team found a skull, bones, and teeth of five individuals who lived about 315,000 years ago.
“There is one issue which is the timing and the place. So the timing is much older than we thought,” said Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin, a Paleoanthropologist.
“It’s not 200,000 [years]. It’s probably more than 300,000 [years]. Then there is the notion that our species, by this time, was already represented all over Africa and not just in a little Garden of Eden somewhere.”
The scientists also found fairly sophisticated stone tools and charcoal, indicating the use of fire by this group.
The researchers’ claim is controversial though, as anthropologists are still debating exactly what physical features distinguish modern humans from more primitive ancestors
Professor Hublin went on to add: “But I think probably the main contribution of our works is to show that modern humans did not appear in a sort of Adamic way, quickly, immediately displaying all the features of extant humans.
“It’s a gradual process, it’s a long process and it’s a complex process. And we see that in the Jebel Irhoud humans, we have part of the anatomy that is already very close to what see in living humans. But other parts that have still to undergo a long evolutionary process, especially the brain.”
This marks the first discovery of such fossils in North Africa. According to the researchers, it widens the cradle of mankind to encompass all of Africa.