Excavations in Moroccan mine reveal oldest Homo sapiens’ remains

Dating of Homo sapiens’ remains, discovered in an old mine in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, revealed that they were about 300000 years old, challenging the belief that the species arose in a cradle of humankind in East Africa 200000 years ago.

Adult mandible discovered at (by Jean-Jacques Hublin)

The site is a former barite mine located 100km west of Marrakesh. First fossilised human remains were discovered in the 1960s with stone tools attributed to Neanderthals believed to be 40000 years old. The recent excavations revealed remains of five individuals at the base of an old limestone cave – a partial skull, a jawbone, teeth and limb bones belonging to three adults, a juvenile, and a child aged about eight years old. Alongside the bones, researchers found sharpened flint tools, numerous gazelle bones, and lumps of charcoal. The fossilised remains were studied at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, making them the oldest known specimens of modern humans found so far in place of remains discovered at Omo Kibish, Ethiopia dating back  195000 years.

Stone tools made in Levallois stone-knapping technique found at the site (by Mohammed Kamal)

The stone tools discovered with the bones were dated to between 280000-350000 years, and a lone tooth to 290000 years old. Further analysis revealed that the stones came not from the local area, but from a region 50 kilometre south of Jebel Irhoud. The tools were created using a knapping technique called Levallois. Dating of the bones changes also the modern believe about the age of the technique.

(after The Guardian, EurekAlert!, Jean-Jacques Hublin & Mohammed Kamal)

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