The largest fossil ever found outside of Africa has been discovered by a research team from The University of Tel Aviv. According to Phys.org, this could mean that humans left the African continent much earlier than originally estimated. The fossil, a human upper jawbone with teeth, was found in a cave in Israel at an archaeological dig site called Misliya. Tests have revealed that the jawbone is between 175,000 and 200,000-years-old, which is an indication that Homo sapiens would have migrated out of Africa 50,000 years earlier than previous fossil data suggested
The team used Micro CT scans and 3D virtual models to date the fossil. They also lined it up against the characteristics of the other human fossils that were found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They also noted that the jawbone shares features found in Neanderthals but that all of its physical features can be identified in modern humans.
Phys.org reports that there were indications that the people who once lived in the cave hunted large animals and knew how to use fire. They also used similar tools to hominins in East Africa who were alive during the same period.
Older fossils have been discovered in Africa but this new archaeological find gives new insight into migration routes out of the continent
Researchers say that it further indicates the importance of this region of the Middle East as a major thoroughfare used by humans and Neanderthals. It also coalesces with additional discoveries made in Asia, which have also suggested that the first migrations outside of the African continent happened earlier than scientists had previously approximated. The jawbone also adds some context for genetic admixtures and demographic data that has been observed in that area.
As National Geographic reports, the previous consensus was that Homo sapiens first showed up in East Africa about 200,000 years ago. Scientists thought the first large migration out of the African continent took place about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago and that smaller instances of migration happened about 120,000 years ago.
However, last year, human fossils were found at the Jebel Irhoud archaeological site in Morocco, which date back to 350,000 years ago. These clues helped the archaeological team learn about the origins of the human race.