Oldest known Homo sapiens fossils come from northern Africa, studies claim | Science News

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Oldest known Homo sapiens fossils come from northern Africa, studies claim

Face, teeth features peg 300,000-year-old fossils as early humans, but brain shape yet to evolve

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1:00pm, June 7, 2017
ancient lower jaw

OUR KIND  Approximately 300,000-year-old fossils unearthed in Morocco, including this lower jaw, come from the oldest known Homo sapiens, researchers contend. But some scientists suspect the new finds come from a population that, despite some similarities, lived before the emergence of H. sapiens.

In a surprising and controversial geographic twist, the earliest known remains of the human species, Homo sapiens, have turned up in northwestern Africa, researchers claim.

Fossils attributed to H. sapiens and stone tools unearthed at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, date to approximately 300,000 years ago, an international team of researchers report June 7 in two papers in Nature. Until now, the oldest human fossils came from East Africa and dated to around 195,000 years ago (SN: 2/26/05, p. 141). Although H. sapiens might have emerged in East Africa, some researchers also categorize a previously discovered fossil skull from South Africa, tentatively dated to about 260,000 years ago, as H. sapiens.

The Morocco fossils indicate that humankind’s emergence involved populations across much of Africa, and started about 100,000 years earlier than

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