Researchers have discovered the Oldest Human Fossil from Western Europe

Researchers have discovered the Oldest Human Fossil from Western Europe

Paleontologists have discovered oldest human fossils of Homo Antecessor that could be a million years old.

Fossils carry immense significance as they reveal the secrets of the past. The study of fossils is known as Paleontology. It involves information about the age and the method of formation of the fossil. Some common examples of fossils include stone imprints, hair, oil, coal, bones, shells, and exoskeletons. One of the primary conditions for a specimen to be categorized as a fossil is that it should be at least 10,000 years old. Like any other field of science, it has come a long way as technology became more and more advanced over the years. One of these developments is the introduction of the Radiometric Dating Techniques which allows the scientists to measure the absolute age of the fossil under examination.

Fossils have proven to be a great help as researchers extracted information from them to draw out the history of humanity. They have been found in different parts of the world and all of them have pointed towards something beneficial. That is the reason why paleontologists keep digging for more clues around the globe. Last year, an international team of scientists found some bones of the ancient Homo sapiens from the Jebel Irhoud. It is a cave which is located in the west of Marrakesh at an approximate distance of 62 miles. These fossils are about 300,000 years old and were regarded as the oldest human fossils ever found. However, recent findings may dethrone them from this post as scientists claim that the fossils found in Western Europe are nearly a million years old.

The team of scientists included experts from China, France, Australia, and Spain. The fossils they found in a cave system in Northern Spain are linked with the earliest known hominin species called ‘Homo Antecessor’. It is the last known ancestor of Homo Neanderthalensis and the Homo sapiens before the species became separated. According to the Max-Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, the path of modern-day humans and Neanderthals deviated around 516,000 years ago. Having said that, the results of the latest study indicates that the splitting might have taken place some 765,000 years ago.

The Homo Antecessor displayed a combination of both modern and primitive humans as it was the original ancestor to the Homo sapiens. Their average height was in the range of 5.5 to 6 feet but they had a more robust body. Similarly, they had a smaller brain which is marked by an occipital bun protruding from the back of the skull. Other facial features like cheekbones, canine fossa, and nose are quite modern. Their social behavior also resembles us as they lived in groups and shared a symbolic language.

The first signs of this species were dawned upon us in the 1990s and a lot of people believed that they are 600,000 to 250,000 years old but there was no conclusive evidence for these claims. Contrary to that, this team of researchers has confirmed the age of this archaic human species by making use of the latest dating techniques. The sedimentary rocks and animals fossils collected from this site were analyzed earlier and their results were used to make a comparison of the findings. All the things seemed to be in-sync as the paleontologists announced that the human skeleton they found lived in these caves some 772,000 to 949,000 years ago. All this information was published in the Quaternary Geochronology.

It was impossible to read ancient remains with carbon dating as carbon imprint is too old to provide much help. In order to overcome this limitation, a couple of new methods called Uranium-thorium Analysis and Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) were inducted in the procedure of fossil dating. The working mechanism of this method revolves around the amount of natural radiation absorbed by the skeleton. One thing that the researchers need to ensure is that uniform levels of uranium are present in the fossil and none of it has been transported to the surrounding ground. Matthieu Duval who led this research explained the process in the following words:

By combining direct dating of the piece with a new, more precise paleo-magnetic study of the deposits of the stratigraphic unit TD6, it was possible to obtain a dating which is consistent with the previous indirect estimates based on the sediment or fauna associated to the hominin remains.”

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