Our oldest ancestor?

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June 28, 2017

Three weeks ago, in a brief NEWS article, we referred to an account in the journal  Nature concerning the discovery in Morocco of fossil remains attributed to Homo sapiens and dated to 315,000 years ago. We promised more news when available.

In this week's Nature appears commentary by Ewan Callaway which we recommend to our readers. Here is the Callaway article. The article is skeptical of the attribution to H. sapiens but also provides commentary in favor of the attribution. Here is a key quote:

"This offers clues about the evolution of the H. sapiens lineage into today’s anatomically modern humans. Hublin suggests that anatomically modern humans may have acquired their characteristic faces before changes to the shape of their brains occurred. Moreover, the mix of features seen in the Jebel Irhoud remains and other H. sapiens-like fossils from elsewhere in Africa point to a diverse genesis for our species, and raises doubt about an exclusively East African origin.

“What we think is before 300,000 years ago, there was a dispersal of our species — or at least the most primitive version of our species — throughout Africa,” Hublin says. Around this time, the Sahara was green and filled with lakes and rivers. Animals that roamed the East African savanna, including gazelles, wildebeest and lions, also lived near Jebel Irhoud, suggesting that these environments were once linked."