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Science

300,000-year-old fossils discovered in Morocco could potentially change the date of human evolution

Bones belonging to Homo sapiens unearthed by the researchers from UC Davies could be the oldest yet.

Exactly how long has the human species been around? According to a new study – more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Fossils of five early humans have been found in Morocco that are believed to be at least 300,000 years old.

According to researchers from the University of California, Davis, the bones also reveal the diet of our ancestors – comprising “plenty of gazelle meat, with the occasional wildebeest, zebra and other game and perhaps the seasonal ostrich egg”.

The new findings include a skull, a jaw and teeth, as well as stone tools.

They show an early stage in the development of our species, when people had a face much like ours, but a brain shape that’s more primitive.

Teresa Steele, a paleoanthropologist at UC Davis, said the findings “support the idea that Middle Stone Age began just over 300,000 years ago, and that important changes in modern human biology and behaviour were taking place across most of Africa then”.

“In my view, what it does is to continue to make it more feasible that North Africa had a role to play in the evolution of modern humans,” she added.

Homo sapiens skull fossil.
(Teresa Steele/UC Davis)

Before now, the oldest known fossils of Homo sapiens were 195,000 years old and were found in Ethiopia.

Researchers uncovered 16 new Homo sapiens fossils along with stone tools and animal bones.

The remains comprise skulls, teeth, and long bones of at least five individuals.

The discovery is reported in the journal Nature.

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