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Our species may be 150,000 years older than we thought

Our species may be 150,000 years older than we thought

New Scientist

Image: Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig

Has our species been hiding its real age? Fossils found in Morocco suggest the Homo sapiens lineage became distinct as early as 350,000 years ago – adding as much as 150,000 years to our species’ history.

“It was indeed a big wow [moment],” says Jean-Jacques Hublin at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who led the analysis with Abdelouahed Ben-Ncer at the National Institute of Archaeology and Heritage in Rabat, Morocco.

On a literal reading of the fossil record, H. sapiens was thought to have emerged in East Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. But some researchers have long suspected that the roots of our species are deeper, given that H. sapiens-like fossils in South Africa have been tentatively dated at 260,000 years old.

The new evidence provides solid support to those suspicions. It comes from a Moroccan site called Jebel Irhoud, which has been puzzling human evolution researchers for more than 50 years. Read more on…