The skeletal remains discovered in Greece could rewrite the history of human migration in Euroasia.
Scientists have revealed new details about two fossilized skulls discovered in a cave in Greece. They’ve dated one of the skulls (belonging to a modern human) to 210,000 years ago, meaning it is the oldest human fossil found outside of Africa.
The broken skulls found in a block of breccia, broken fragments of rock and fossil cemented together, were recovered by researchers from the Apidima cave on the Mani Peninsula decades ago, in the 1970s. However, at the time, not much attention was given to the fragments.
The skulls were studied in the past but given the fact that they were discovered in the same breccia, it was assumed they were the same age.
The skull fragments, dubbed Apidima 1 and Apidima 2 are a time capsule of ancient human migration.
If verified–there’s a lot of experts who are skeptical because of its age–it could rewrite the human origin history as we know it.
In order to establish the age of the skulls, the scientists analyzed fragments of the bone.
As noted by CNN, the researchers studied the decay rate of radioactive forms of uranium in skull bone fragments putting Apidima 1 at 210,000 years old and Apidima 2 at 170,000 years old.
In fact, Apidima 1 could become the oldest known Homo sapien fossil in Europe by 160,000 years.
Apidima 1 is “the earliest known presence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia, which indicates that early modern humans dispersed out of Africa starting much earlier, and reaching much further than previously thought,” the researchers wrote.
This has huge implications. Because the modern human skull is much older than the one belonging to the Neanderthal, the scientists think that a group of Homo sapiens lived in the area, but did not manage to establish themselves in the area.
The Apidima 2 skull is also older than an H. sapiens jaw found at Israel’s Misliya Cave that is believed to date back to between around 177,000 and 194,000 years ago.
It also suggests that the Levant and Turkey may have been migration routs fo modern humans to reach parts of southeastern Europe.
The analysis of the skulls tells us that modern humans migrated away from Africa much earlier than previously tough, reaching areas geographically further than previously thought.
“Our results indicate that an early dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa occurred earlier than previously believed, before 200,000 years ago,” explained Katerina Harvati, the director of paleoanthropology at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
“We’re seeing evidence for human dispersals that are not just limited to one major exodus out of Africa.”
A study detailing the analysis of the skull was published in the journal Nature.
The cave where the bone fragments were discovered is only reachable by water today. However, hundreds of thousands of years ago, water levels were much lower which allowed the cave to be accessed by foot.
Climatological records indicate that at the time, parts of Southern Greece would have offered an oasis during glacial times, offering a milder climate compared to other parts of the world.