New research findings suggest that the human migration out of Africa may have occurred 50,000 years earlier than previously believed. The Misliya fossil is an exciting discovery that could help shape the timing and understanding of human migration and evolution.
Misliya Fossil Found In Israel
An international research team has discovered the earliest modern human fossil outside of Africa, possibly rewriting the believed timeline of human migration. The fossil was found in the Misliya Cave in Israel, which is one of the noted prehistoric sites in Mount Carmel. It consists of an upper jawbone with several teeth still attached, and several dating methods revealed the fossil to be about 175,000 to 200,000 years old.
To further understand the origins of the Misliya fossil, researchers used 3D virtual models and microCT scans to compare the remains to other fossils from Africa, Asia, and Europe. What they found was that while the anatomical details of the fossil are consistent with those of modern humans, some of its features are also consistent with those of Neanderthals and other early human groups.
"It also means that modern humans were potentially meeting and interacting during a longer period of time with other archaic human groups, providing more opportunity for cultural and biological exchanges," said Rolf Quam of Binghamton University, coauthor of the study.
Is It Time To Rewrite The Migration Model?
It's worth noting that there are older fossils of modern humans found in Africa, but to fully understand human evolution, it is important to also understand how and when the modern humans migrated out of Africa. The current understanding of the human migration out of Africa is that the migration began about 120,000 years ago. However, given the age and anatomical details of the Misliya fossil, researchers surmise that there were already early modern humans who went out of Africa 55,000 years earlier.
What's more, archaeological evidence from collected sediments reveal that the inhabitants of the cave knew how to produce fire, were very capable hunters, and can be associated with stone tool kits not unlike those used by the early modern humans in Africa.
Essentially, evidence from the Misliya fossil suggests that the modern humans' exodus from Africa possibly happened earlier than previously believed. Incidentally, this is not the first study to find evidence on the matter. According to researchers, recent fossil and archaeological discoveries also provide evidence for an earlier migration. In fact, just last December, another study suggested a rewrite of the traditional "out of Africa" model wherein instead of going out of Africa in a single wave, perhaps early humans moved out in several waves including earlier, smaller ones prior to the major migration.
The study is published in Science Magazine.