Earliest Evidence of Modern Humans in Eurasia Uncovered

The Apidima 2 cranium (rich) and its reconstruction (left). Apidima 2 shows a suite of features characteristic of Neanderthals, indicating that it belongs to the Neanderthal lineage. (Katerina Harvat / Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen)

(CN) – A pair of ancient skulls found in Greece may prove the earliest modern humans migrated to Eurasia much earlier than originally believed, according to a study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

Researchers came to this conclusion after studying two skulls that were unearthed in the 1970s on the Mani peninsula in Greece. Using imaging technology and data that was not available at the time the skulls were found, researchers were able to make some remarkable observations on the age of the skulls and their significance in understanding the timeline of early modern human migration.

Katerina Harvati, lead author of the study and director of paleoanthropology at Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, discovered that the one skull is roughly 210,000 years old and has a mix of both modern human features and more ancient prehistoric human features. This skull, which researchers have dubbed Apidima 1, predates the previously oldest evidence of early modern humans by nearly 150,000 years.

The other skull, Apidima 2, is 170,000 years old and bears some distinctive Neanderthal-like characteristics.

Researchers said these two skulls suggest early humans migrated out of Africa and into areas of southwestern Europe and Eurasia much earlier in the Pleistocene age than was previously thought.

The scientists also propose that the notable differences in age and features between the two skulls suggest that two distinctive groups of early humans existed in Eurasia at different historical periods.

“These results suggest that two late Middle Pleistocene human groups were present at this site – an early Homo sapiens population, followed by a Neanderthal population,” the study states.

While data from these two skulls do offer some clarification on the timeline of early human migration, researchers said there are still many questions that must be answered to fully understand how human’s earliest ancestors migrated across the globe.

Harvati did not immediately respond to request for comment by press time.

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