A fossil jawbone discovered in Spain may challenge what we know about the migration of Homo sapiens from Africa to Europe. The Banyoles jawbone, found in a quarry near the town of Banyoles, Spain, in 1889, was thought to be a Neanderthal fossil. However, new evidence suggests that it may be from an early Homo sapiens individual.
The jawbone had not previously been considered in discussions of Homo sapiens in Europe because it lacked the bony-chinned characteristic of our species. Furthermore, most researchers believed that it was too old to represent Homo sapiens, with an estimated age of between 780,000 and 130,000 years.
However, based on the recent modern uranium series and electron spin resonance dating, researchers now believe the Banyoles jaw is between 45,000 and 66,000 years old.
This younger estimate overlaps with the earliest H. sapiens fossils from Eastern Europe.
Working with Spanish paleoanthropologists and archaeologists, the researchers took another look at which species the fossil might represent.
Using CT scans to virtually reconstruct damaged or missing parts of the jaw, they generated a 3D model of the complete fossil, then studied its general shape and distinctive anatomical features, comparing it to H. sapiens, Neanderthals and other earlier human species.
The new conclusion suggests that the fossil is between 45,000 and 66,000 years old. The findings of this study suggest that the earliest individuals of Homo sapiens may have lived in Europe before they were thought to have done so, and could reveal insights into current biological, cultural, and behavioral diversity.
Understanding the migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa and its interactions with other human lineages, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, is one of the most active research areas in human evolutionary studies.
By reclassifying the Banyoles jaw, researchers have added to the mystery of who these early humans were and how they interacted with other human lineages.
Source: The Conversation
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