Oldest Fossil of Human Ancestor Found in Europe

May 31, 2008 11:12 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The remains, estimated to be over 1 million years old, shed light on how early humans migrated from their evolutionary birthplace in Africa.

30-Second Summary

The scientists found a jawbone and teeth of early human ancestors, estimated at between 1.1 and 1.2 million years old, in the fossil-rich caves of Atapuerca, located in northern Spain.

The small size of the fossils suggest they belonged to a woman, researchers said. Also found were stone tools and animal bones with tell-tale cut marks from butchering.

The new find, dubbed “Pioneer Man,” represents the oldest reliably dated evidence of human occupation in Europe, and is a clue to early human origins.

"What we have are the European descendents of the first migration out of Africa," Spanish archaeologist Marina Mosquera told the BBC.

The oldest known human remains, 200,000 year-old skulls, were discovered in Ethiopia.

The newly discovered Atapuerca fossils belong to an early subset of the human family known as “hominins,” defined as “early human or pre-human beings.” Anatomical features in the fossils link them to older finds in Georgia, which are among the first human remains ever found outside of Africa.

That finding provides new evidence about the route of ancient human migration, suggesting that the earliest European settlers came from the east.

"In terms of European prehistory, this [find] is very significant," Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum told the BBC.

Headline Link: ‘Spain Dig Yields Ancient European’

Related Topic: Ethiopia yields oldest human fossils

Background: The Georgian hominins

Reference: The rich labyrinth of Atapuercan caves, how fossils form


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