Scientists have recently discovered a new kind of early human after studying pieces of a fossilized bone that was dug up at a cement plant located in central Israel. The fragments of the skull and lower jaw included teeth that suggested the fossils were about 130,000-years-old.
The researchers were from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and spoke about the discoveries this past week. The fossils are called Nesher Ramla Homo, after the location in which they were discovered.
The earliest humans had very large teeth and no chin, and the study suggested that they may have been ancestors of the Neanderthals, which would challenge current thinking that our evolutionary cousins originated in Europe.
“The discovery of a new type of Homo is of great scientific importance. It enables us to make new sense of previously found human fossils, add another piece to the puzzle of human evolution, and understand the migrations of humans in the old world.”
Dr Yossi Zaidner works for Hebrew University and is the one who found the fossils while exploring a mining area of the Nesher cement plant near Ramla. The team of scientists discovered the bones about 25-feet deep along with some stone tools and the bones of horses and deer.
The study said the Nesher Ramla “resembled pre-Neanderthal groups in Europe. This is what makes us suggest that this Nesher Ramla group is actually a large group that started very early in time and are the source of the European Neanderthal,” said Hila May, a physical anthropologist at the Dan David Center and the Shmunis Institute of Tel Aviv University.
May explained how before this discovery experts were never able to explain how Homo sapien genes were present in earlier Neanderthal populations, but now, the Nesher Ramla group may be the reason for that.
The jaw bone of these fossils had no chin and the skull was flat. 3D shape analysis revealed that the group was not related to any known group of early humans. “What they did match were a small number of enigmatic human fossils found elsewhere in Israel, dating back even earlier, that anthropologists had never been able to place,” May said.
“As a crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia, the land of Israel served as a melting pot where different human populations mixed with one another, to later spread throughout the Old World,” said Dr Rachel Sarig, from Tel Aviv University.
Sheela Athreya, a Texas A&M University paleoanthropologist said the new research “gives us a lot to think about in terms of the history of population groups in this region, and how they may have interacted with populations in other regions, in Europe and North Africa.”
The Nesher Ramla fossils “look like something on a lineage heading toward Neanderthal. They seem to be categorized as fossils of an intermediate variety — this group may be predecessors to Neanderthals in this area.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.