Via LA Times
The Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco. At the time the site was occupied by early hominins, it would have been a cave, but the covering rock and much of the sediment were removed in the 1960s. (Shannon McPherron / Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
Anthropologists have long sought to pin down the exact location of the proverbial “Garden of Eden” — the region of our planet where the earliest Homo sapiens emerged.
Over the last two decades, a combination of genetic evidence and data from the fossil record have led scientists to conclude that the first members of our species evolved in eastern Africa about 200,000 years ago.
But a new discovery suggests a more complex narrative for the origin of humans.
In a pair of papers published Wednesday in Nature, an international team of researchers describes 22 human fossils from western Morocco that are about 300,000 years old.
According to the authors, it is the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens ever discovered — by a long shot.
The unexpected location of the find, coupled with previous discoveries of early human remains dating back 260,000 years in South Africa and 195,000 years in Ethiopia, casts doubt on the story that the first members of our species evolved in a single region of the African continent, study authors said.
“Our results challenge this picture in a number of ways,” said paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, who led the work. “There is no Garden of Eden in Africa, or if there is a Garden of Eden, it’s Africa. The Garden of Eden is the size of Africa.”
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