New dating: Homo sapiens in East Africa is much older than expected

Updated on 01/14/2022 at 8:14 p.m.

  • Until now, the oldest discovery of Homo sapiens came from Morocco.
  • Surprising, because East Africa is actually considered the cradle of humanity.
  • However, a study now shows that a fossil discovered in Ethiopia lived much earlier than previously thought.

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Modern humans lived in East Africa much earlier than previously proven. The Homo sapiens Omo 1 discovered in southern Ethiopia did not live less than 200,000 years ago, as previously assumed, but at least 233,000 years ago – possibly even much earlier.

This is reported by an international research team led by Céline Vidal of the University of Cambridge after a new dating of the layer of earth concerned in the journal “Nature”.

Skull fragments found in Ethiopia play key role

Africa is the cradle of humanity. But only eight finds of Homo sapiens in Africa date back more than 130,000 years, writes Vidal’s team. Skull fragments from Omo Kibish 1 (Omo 1), found in southwestern Ethiopia in the late 1960s, play a key role.

According to the team, they clearly show signs of modern Homo sapiens, but according to previous dating, with an age of around 197,1000 years, they were far from the oldest remains of our species.

Read also : Humans had social networks over 40,000 years ago

A team led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig reported the first discovery of Homo sapiens to date in 2017. The Jebel Irhoud fossil in Morocco is therefore around 300,000 years old. The location was the main surprise at the time – far beyond the classic discovery regions in East and Southern Africa.

Omo 1 must have lived over 233,000 years ago

The current study now shows that modern people in East Africa lived earlier than previously documented. The dating of Omo 1 was already controversial: “The fossils were found in a layer under a thick deposit of volcanic ash which could never be radiometrically dated because it was too thin,” Vidal said in a statement. his university.

Thanks to geochemical investigations, researchers have now attributed this ash to an eruption of the Shala volcano, 400 kilometers away. Argon dating of pumice crystals from this eruption found elsewhere showed that the volcano erupted around 233,000 years ago. Since Omo 1 was under the ash layer from this eruption, it must have lived over 233,000 years ago – possibly much earlier.

“Our new age threshold is consistent with most models of modern human evolution, which estimate the origin of H. sapiens and its separation from archaic humans between 350,000 and 200,000 years ago,” the team wrote. “Determining a robust maximum age for Omo 1 remains a challenge.” (ff/ap)

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