An ancient jaw pushes humans’ African departure back in time | Science News

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An ancient jaw pushes humans’ African departure back in time

Fossil found in Israeli cave is at least 177,000 years old

2:00pm, January 25, 2018
partial jaw bone

LEAVING EARLY  This nearly 200,000-year-old partial jaw found in Israel indicates that Homo sapiens left Africa a surprisingly long time ago, scientists say. The evolutionary identity of the jaw is open to debate, though.

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A fossil jaw unearthed in Israel is speaking up about when humans departed Africa. The jaw’s message, at least to its finders: That ancient exodus started much earlier than many researchers had assumed.

Misliya Cave on Israel’s Mount Carmel has yielded what its discoverers regard as a partial Homo sapiens jaw with an estimated age of between around 177,000 and 194,000 years old. That indicates that humans could have left Africa and reached the Middle East around 60,000 years earlier than many scientists had assumed. A description and analysis of the fossil appears in the Jan. 26 Science.

Until now, the oldest known H. sapiens fossils outside of Africa, discovered at Israel’s Skhul and Qafzeh Caves, dated to between approximately 90,000 and 120,000 years ago.

The Misliya jawbone “provides the

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