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  • Scientists announced they have found the most ancient sign of human presence in Europe.

    Scientists announced they have found the most ancient sign of human presence in Europe. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 July 2019

The skull in question was found in the late 1970s during the excavation of the Apidima Cave in the southern Peloponnese region of Greece.

Scientists announced they have found the most ancient signs of human presence in Europe upon analyzing a chunk of skull discovered in Greece.  

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According to their estimations, the fossil is about 210,000 years old which makes it at least 16,000 years older than the human remnants previously found in Israel. It is thought to be the oldest proof of human presence outside of Africa.

If the hypothesis is correct, it would mean that Homo Sapiens started to spread out of Africa much earlier than scientists used to think.

The skull in question had been found in the late 1970s, during the excavation of the Apidima Cave in the southern Peloponnese region of Greece. It was then put in a museum within the University in Athens.

According to Katerina Harvati, paleoanthropologist, and expert in early human evolution, the detailed examination of the remains were made possible thanks to technological advances over the past several decades.

"We can now produce a CT scan to try to restore the specimen to its original anatomy," said Harvati, who, along with other researchers invited to study the skull, released a publication in the journal, Nature, Wednesday.

"We dissected virtually more than 60 little fragments of bone and tried to put them in their original position and removed sediments from cracks," she said, adding that two teams, each working on different criteria, created four reconstructions that were then analyzed and compared.

The earliest Homo sapiens found out of Africa is Greek and is 210,000 years old, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
 

Harvati also explained that the community of researchers compared the results of their analysis with those of other fossil skulls from Europe and Africa, from approximately the same time period. After that, it deduced that the fragment belonged to a Homo sapien. 

However, she said at a press conference, that the experts are still unsure that DNA or proteins could be obtained from the skull to confirm their theories.

While some researchers said it "made a lot of sense" that a Homo sapien fossil should be found in southeastern Europe dating back to that time, others expressed doubts.

Warren Sharp, for instance, an expert on dating fossils from the United States, said the age of 210,000 years is "not well supported by the data".

Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York called the case "pretty shaky," telling The Associated Press that features lacked to make the identification stronger, even though the shape suggests that it indeed belonged to a Homo sapien.

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