Anthropologists, scientists and curious cats amid existential crises have been asking where and when humanity comes from for centuries.
Scientists have collected scattered clues that suggest the answer lay somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa about 200,000 years ago.
But two new studies published in the journal, Nature, has uncovered something that could overturn that theory of evolution: Human fossils from over 300,00 years ago.
Anthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin and his team from the Max Planck Institute began excavating The Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco – where miners in the 60s had dug up a 40,000-year-old human skull – at the turn of the millennium.
Hublin’s team dug a little deeper and found remains that they say belong to at least five individuals, who lived roughly 300,000-350,000 years ago.
However, the most surprising detail came when Hublin examined the skull closer. The skull -instead of demonstrating the characteristics of our Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis ancestors – looked more similar to the human skulls of the modern period.
Hublin told reporters:
The face of these people is really a face that falls right in the middle of the modern variation. They had a skull that is more elongated than most of us, but I’m not sure these people would stand out from a crowd today.
The features of the skulls Hublin found in Morocco sit somewhere between our anatomy and our ancestors’ anatomy.
This unique combination of advanced and archaic features, according to Hublin, could ‘represent the very root of our species.’
Until now, anthropological logic states the evolution of humankind began somewhere deep in sub-Saharan Africa, in what some researchers have dubbed the ‘Garden of Eden’.
Instead, Hublin says:
There is no Garden of Eden in Africa, or if there is, it is all of Africa.
This discovery could change the perceived journey of evolution – and stretch it out in terms of both geography and time itself.