Until 2017, the oldest human fossils were estimated to be 195,000 years old. In 2017, an international team of scientists claimed to have found human fossils dating back roughly 300,000 years.
In Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, scientists found fossils closely resembling the features of early humans. The skulls and teeth found are very similar to the skulls and teeth of modern humans, though they are a little bit larger. Also found at the site were stone tools, similar to those made by early humans and their close relatives, the Neanderthal.
The oldest previously known human fossils came from East Africa, on the opposite side of the continent from where the Jebel Irhoud fossils were found. The new finding suggests that early humans spread out across the continent before leaving Africa. Three-hundred thousand years ago, the Sahara Desert could have supported human life, so it would have been possible for humans to spread from there.
However, not everyone agrees that the Jebel Irhoud fossils came from the human species. The skulls of the fossils are larger and their braincases’ shapes were closer to an oval than those found in other human fossils. For these reasons, some scientists believe the fossils came from an earlier species, the Homo erectus.
The tools found are similar to others used by both early humans and Neanderthals. Toolmakers prepared the majority of the tools found at the Jebel Irhoud site by pounding them off of larger rocks. This technique was commonly used by both humans and Neanderthals commonly used this technique across Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Regardless of whether the fossils came from earlier human species, they are important in helping scientists understand early human migration, possibly providing insight into how humans spread out across the African continent.
[Source: Science News for Students]