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Half-Million-Year-Old Human Jawbone Found

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by micropage7, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. micropage7


    Mar 26, 2010
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    Jakarta, Indonesia
    An ancient hominin jawbone unearthed in a Serbian cave may be more than half a million years old

    Scientists have unearthed a jawbone from an ancient human ancestor in a cave in Serbia.

    The jawbone, which may have come from an ancient Homo erectus or a primitive-looking Neanderthal precursor, is more than 397,000 years old, and possibly more than 525,000 years old. The fossil, described today (Feb. 6) in the journal PLOS ONE, is the oldest hominin fossil found in this region of Europe, and may change the view that Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relatives, evolved throughout Europe around that time.

    "It comes from an area where we basically don't have anything that is known and well- published," said study co-author Mirjana Roksandic, a bioarchaeologist from the University of Winnipeg in Canada. "Now we have something to start constructing a picture of what's happening in this part of Europe at that time."

    Cave diggers

    In 2000, Roksandic and her colleagues began excavating a cave in Balanica, Serbia, that contained ancient archaeological remains. While they were away, rogue diggers secretly dug a deeper pit within the cave, hoping to do their own excavations. Because the site had already been disturbed, the team then decided to probe deeper below the pit's bottom, Roksandic told LiveScience. [In Photos: Our Closest Human Relatives]

    About 5.9 inches (15 centimeters) below the surface the team found an ancient jawbone fragment with three molars still intact.

    Using several dating techniques, the team determined the fragment was definitely older than 397,000 years and perhaps older than 525,000 years.

    The jawbone lacked several characteristic Neanderthal features, including distinctive chewing surfaces on the teeth that show up in Western Europe at that time. Instead, the fossil resembled the more primitive Homo erectus.

    Back then, the cave may have been a hyena den, though the researchers can't say whether a hyena actually brought the human remains into its den.

    Oldest specimen

    In the past, anthropologists assumed that Neanderthals were widespread throughout Europe, basing that assumption on Neanderthal fossils almost exclusively found in Western Europe, Roksandic said.

    The new findings suggest that Neanderthals may not have evolved in this region of Southeastern Europe, at least during this time. Instead, during several ice ages, rising glaciers over the past eons cut off Western Europe from the rest of the continent, and this isolation likely contributed to the evolution of Neanderthals' distinctive features from the more primitive Homo erectus.

    Ancient humans in Southeastern Europe, by contrast, were never cut off due to rising glaciers.

    "So there is no pressure on them to develop into something different," she said.

    But not everyone is convinced of this interpretation.

    The jawbone may come from "an unusual individual in a population of which some others might be more Neanderthal-like," said Fred Smith, a paleoanthropologist at Illinois State University, who was not involved in the study. "We would expect the population from this time period to show more variability."

  2. KrisC

    Mar 7, 2009
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    Sault Ste Marie Ont. Canada
    I just watched a documentary the other day where they discovered that humans and neanderthals had interbred. Depending on the region, up to 3% of genetic makeup contains neanderthal DNA. It could very well be a first generation of said hybrid homo erectus.
  3. Inceptor


    Sep 21, 2011
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    Neanderthals were Human too. Any species in the genus 'Homo' is technically Human.
    Neanderthals (Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis) interbred with modern humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens). But that wasn't until modern Humans migrated into Europe, and encroached into Neanderthal inhabited areas, starting approx. 50k years ago.

    There have been discoveries of Archaic Homo settlements and remains in Europe for quite some time now, dating back to this time period (500k - 300k years ago).

    Neanderthals evolved from Homo Erectus/Homo Heidelbergensis and expanded into what is now Europe and Siberia starting around 300k years ago.

    AFAIK, all that is roughly correct, although Anthropologists do argue over which species we evolved from relative to which species Neanderthals evolved from and whether or not they are the same or whether they branched off from each other earlier on...

    Putting it simply, it's possible that some people with weak chins and/or large noses have some Neanderthal genes. Although, probably most (or all) people of European and Eurasian descent have some Neanderthal genes.

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