A new species of primitive man, recently discovered in Israel, questions the idea that the Neanderthal man emerged in Europe before migrating south – scientists say.
Archaeological excavations near the city of Ramla, in central Israel, by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have uncovered prehistoric remains that do not correspond to any known species of Homo, including modern humans (Homo sapiens).
In a study published in the journal Science, Tel Aviv University anthropologists and archaeologists, led by Yossi Zaidner, dubbed the find “Homo Nesher Ramla”, after the location where the remains were found.
The bones are between 120,000 and 140,000 years old and share common traits with the Neanderthals, especially teeth and jaws, and with other types of prehistoric men, mainly in the skull, the scientists indicated in a statement.
“At the same time, this type of Homo is very different from modern humans, with a completely different skull structure, no chin and very large teeth,” they explain.
In addition to human remains, the excavation found, eight meters deep, a large amount of animal bones and stone tools.
“Archaeological finds associated with human fossils show that Homo Nesher Ramla had advanced techniques for producing stone tools and possibly interacted with local Homo sapiens,” said Zaidner.
According to the expert, the discovery is “particularly spectacular, because it shows that there were several types of Homo that lived in the same place, at the same time, in this period of human evolution.”
Researchers have suggested that some fossils previously found in Israel, dating as far back as 400,000 years ago, could belong to the same type of prehistoric human.
– Piece in the evolutionary puzzle –
The discovery of Homo Nesher Ramla questions the theory that Neanderthals first emerged in Europe before migrating south.
“This theory comes into question because (the discovery) suggests that the ancestors of the European Neanderthals already lived in the Levant 400,000 years ago,” said anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University.
“Our findings suggest that the famous Neanderthals of western Europe are just what’s left of the much larger population that lived here in the Levant, not the other way around.”
Dentist and anthropologist Rachel Sarig, from Tel Aviv University, one of the authors of the study, explained that the findings indicate that “small groups of Homo Nesher Ramla migrated to Europe, where they became the ‘classic’ Neanderthals we also know, as well as in Asia, where they became prehistoric populations with characteristics similar to those of the Neanderthals”.
“Among Africa, Europe and Asia, the land of Israel was the melting pot where different human populations mixed and then spread out,” he said.
“The discovery writes a new and fascinating chapter in the history of mankind”, he added.
The discovery is of great scientific importance, according to Hershkovitz, because it makes it possible to add a piece to the puzzle of human evolution and better understand the migrations of humans in antiquity.
Geneticists studying European Neanderthal DNA have in the past suggested the existence of a similar population, called the “missing population”, or “population X”, that would have encountered Homo sapiens more than 200,000 years ago.
In their article, Israeli scientists suggest that Homo Nesher Ramla may be the missing link.
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