The earliest known existence of modern humans, or Homo sapiens, was previously dated to be around 200,000 years ago. It’s a view supported by genetic analysis and dated Homo sapiens fossils (Omo Kibish, estimated age 195,000 years, and Herto, estimated age 160,000 years), both found in modern-day Ethiopia, East Africa. But new research, published today in two Nature papers, offers a fresh perspective. The latest studies suggest that Homo sapiens spread across the entire African continent more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought. This evidence pushes back the origins of our species to 300,000 years ago, and supports the idea that important changes in our biology and behaviour had already taken place across most of Africa by that time. Our work focused on samples collected at the archaeological site Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. It’s a place that is well known for hominin fossils – that is, bones from early humans – first excavated in the 1960s. However, the interpretation o...

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