Modern humans arrived in Europe 150,000 years earlier than previously thought
An international team of researchers has identified the remains of the first known European. The reconstruction of a 210,000-year-old skull has revealed that humans made their way from Africa to modern-day Europe at least 150,000 years earlier than what was previously realized.
The fragmented skull, which is known as Apidima 1, was originally unearthed from the Apidima cave in Greece in the 1970s alongside pieces of a second skull, referred to as Apidima 2.
Apidima 1 represents the earliest proof of modern humans on the continent of Europe, and shows that Homo sapiens made several migrations from Africa over tens of thousands of years.
“It’s at least 210,000 years old – predating the previously reported oldest H. sapiens in Europe by more than 150,000 years,” said study co-author Professor Katerina Harvati of Tubingen University. “These analyses indicate modern humans dispersed out of Africa much earlier than previously thought – and support the hypothesis that there were multiple dispersals.”
According to the researchers, no human living today was descended from this particular group of Homo Sapiens because the population was wiped out. Professor Harvati believes this was the result of environmental factors, which likely included climatic events and conflict with Neanderthals over resources.
“It’s a complicated scenario. The early modern humans in Greece were replaced by Neanderthals. It was not one exodus out of Africa but lots of small ones,” said Professor Harvati. “The earliest people did not leave a genetic contribution to Europeans living today. These were small populations that made it all the way to Greece.”
The researchers used advanced imaging techniques such as CT scans to analyze Apidima 1 and Apidima 2.
“Here we virtually reconstruct both crania, provide detailed comparative descriptions and analyses, and date them,” explained Professor Harvati. “Apidima 2 dates to more than 170,000 years ago and has a Neanderthal-like morphological pattern.”
“By contrast, Apidima 1 dates to more than 210,000 years ago and presents a mixture of modern human and primitive features. These results suggest that two late Middle Pleistocene human groups were present at this site – an early Homo sapiens population followed by a Neanderthal population.”
The study is published in the journal Nature.
Main Image Credit: Shutterstock/Anton Balazh