Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ancient Human Remains Twice Previous Age

This has been reported on quite a bit.  This shows a good picture of one of the teeth.  The age claim is certainly pushing the envelope.  Yet this is needed.  So much theory has been spun out of mere data points, that giving it all a good kick is a very good idea.  The good news is that each year sees more shovels at work and more sites investigated and expanded.

Rather important in the Middle East were everything had to pass.  The region itself was originally pleasantly forested and provided plenty of refugia for populations of different species.  It is poorly understood that the actual population density on the ground during the Bronze Age was huge as compared to other similar regions at the time and filled in what are today barrens.

Thus a great deal will need to be done and we all will have to be patient as we slowly figure it all out.

Researchers: Ancient human remains found in Israel
By DANIEL ESTRIN, Associated Press – Mon Dec 27, 6:13 pm ET


Israeli archaeologists said Monday they may have found the earliest evidence yet for the existence of modern man, and if so, it could upset theories of the origin of humans.

A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and resemble those of other remains of modern man, known scientifically as Homo sapiens, found in Israel. The earliest Homo sapiens remains found until now are half as old

"It's very exciting to come to this conclusion," said archaeologist Avi Gopher, whose team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.

He stressed that further research is needed to solidify the claim. If it does, he says, "this changes the whole picture of evolution."

The accepted scientific theory is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and migrated out of the continent. Gopher said if the remains are definitively linked to modern human's ancestors, it could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.

Sir Paul Mellars, a prehistory expert at Cambridge University, said the study is reputable, and the find is "important" because remains from that critical time period are scarce, but it is premature to say the remains are human.

"Based on the evidence they've cited, it's a very tenuous and frankly rather remote possibility," Mellars said. He said the remains are more likely related to modern man's ancient relatives, the Neanderthals.

According to today's accepted scientific theories, modern humans and Neanderthals stemmed from a common ancestor who lived in Africa about 700,000 years ago. One group of descendants migrated to Europe and developed into Neanderthals, later becoming extinct. Another group stayed in Africa and evolved into Homo sapiens — modern humans.

Teeth are often unreliable indicators of origin, and analyses of skull remains would more definitively identify the species found in the Israeli cave, Mellars said.

Gopher, the Israeli archaeologist, said he is confident his team will find skulls and bones as they continue their dig.

The prehistoric Qesem cave was discovered in 2000, and excavations began in 2004. Researchers Gopher, Ran Barkai and Israel Hershkowitz published their study in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

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