June 24, 2021 – 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) – The bones found in an Israeli quarry come from a branch of the human evolutionary tree and are 120,000 to 140,000 years old, scientists reported Thursday.
A team of anthropologists have spent years analyzing the fragments of a skull, lower jaw bone, and tooth that were discovered at Nesher Ramla in 2010, comparing them to hundreds of fossils from the whole world from different eras.
The researchers determined that the fossils likely came from a group of hominids closely related to the Neanderthals and sharing many of their characteristics, such as the shape of the lower jaw. Scientists also believe that there are enough similarities to link this group to other populations found in earlier cave excavations in Israel dating to around 400,000 years ago.
“Teeth have unique characteristics that allow us to draw a line between these populations,” said Tel Aviv University dental anthropologist Rachel Sarig, co-author of the article published Thursday in the journal Science.
This group likely inhabited the area around 400,000 to 100,000 years ago, said Tel Aviv University physical anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, another co-author. He said the remains found at Nesher Ramla were likely from “some of the last survivors of a once very dominant group in the Middle East.”
Previous research has shown that homo sapiens – modern man – also lived in the region around the same time.
Many scientists believe that the arrival of homo sapiens in Europe foreshadowed the decline of Neanderthals there, but the story may have been different in the Levant region – the crossroads between North Africa and the Levant. ‘Eurasia.
The new findings add to research showing that homo sapiens and Neanderthal-like groups overlapped in the Middle East over a significant period of time, possibly tens of thousands of years.
There was likely cultural and genetic exchange between the groups, suggest the authors of the article. “The Neanderthal story can no longer be told only as a European story. It’s a much more complicated story, ”Hershkovitz said.
Sheela Athreya, a paleoanthropologist from Texas A&M University who was not involved in the study, said the new research “gives us a lot to think about in terms of the history of population groups in this region, and how they were able to interact with populations in other regions, in Europe and in North Africa.
The Nesher Ramla fossils “look like something on a line going to Neanderthals,” said Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College in New York who was not involved in the study. He called the findings “fossils of what appears to be an intermediate variety – this group may be predecessors of Neanderthals in this area.” ”
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