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Scientists discover a new type of Homo unknown in an Israeli excavation

Homo Nesher Ramla finding sheds light on how Homo sapiens genes penetrated the Neanderthal population

The bones of a primitive human, unknown to science, who lived until at least 130,000 ago years, have been discovered in excavations of the Nesher Ramla site, near the city of Ramallah (Israel). By recognizing the similarity to other 400,000-year-old archaic Homo specimens found in Israel and Eurasia, researchers have concluded that these fossils represent a unique Middle Pleistocene population, now identified for the first time.

This discovery, published in the journal ‘Science’ and in which the Spanish participates Juan Luis Arsuaga, Professor of Paleontology at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), calls into question the predominant hypothesis that Neanderthals originated in Europe, suggesting that at least some of the Neanderthal ancestors actually came from the Levant.

The new finding suggests that dThe types of Homo groups lived together in the Levant for more than 100,000 years (200-100,000 years ago), sharing knowledge and tool technologies: Nesher Ramla, who lived in the region for about 400,000 years, and the Homo sapiens that came later, about 200,000 years ago.

The new discovery also hints at a mystery of human evolution, about how Homo sapiens genes entered the Neanderthal population which presumably had lived in Europe long before the arrival of Homo sapiens. The researchers claim that at least some of the later Homo fossils previously found in Israel, such as those unearthed in the Skhul and Qafzeh caves, do not belong to archaic (early) Homo sapiens, but to mixed lineage groups of Homo sapiens and Nesher Ramla.

Researchers from the Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem point out that Nesher Ramla’s human morphology shares traits with both Neanderthals (especially teeth and jaws) and archaic Homo (specifically the skull). At the same time, this type of Homo is very different from modern humans, as it presents an eCompletely different cranial structure, it has no chin and has very large teeth.

Source population

Based on the results of the study, the researchers believe that Nesher Ramla’s type of Homo is the population “source” from which most Middle Pleistocene humans developed. Furthermore, they suggest that this group is the so-called “disappeared” population that se mated with Homo sapiens that arrived in the region about 200,000 years ago, as evidenced by a recent study on the fossils found in the Misliya cave.

Two teams of researchers have participated in this important discovery: one from anthropology, Dr. Hila May and Dr. Rachel Sarig, and another of archeology, directed by the doctor

Professor Israel Hershkovitz, from Tel Aviv University, emphasizes that “this discovery of a new type of Homo is of great scientific importance. It allows us to give new meaning to previously found human fossils, add another piece to the puzzle of evolution. human and understand human migrations in the ancient world. Despite having lived so long ago, in the late Middle Pleistocene (474,000-130,000 years ago), the Nesher Ramla can tell us a fascinating story, which reveals a lot about the evolution and way of life of their descendants, “he says.

Eight meters deep

The important human fossil was found by the doctor Yossi zaidner, from the Institute of Archeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, during salvage excavations at the prehistoric site of Nesher Ramla, in the mining area of ​​the Nesher cement factory (owned by Len Blavatnik), near the town of Ramla.

When digging about 8 meters, excavators found large quantities of animal bones, such as horses, fallow deer, and aurochs, as well as stone tools and human bones. An international team led by researchers from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem identified the morphology of the bones as belonging to a new type of Homo, hitherto unknown to science. It is the first type of Homo to be defined in Israel and, according to common practice, it was named after the site where it was discovered: the Nesher Ramla type of Homo.

Zaidner emphasizes that “it is an extraordinary discovery. We had never imagined that, along with Homo sapiens, archaic Homo would roam the area at such a late time in human history, he says. Archaeological findings associated with human fossils show that the ‘Homo of Nesher Ramla’ possessed advanced technologies of stone tool production and most likely interacted with local Homo sapiens. “Nesher Ramla’s culture, way of life and behavior of Homo are discussed in a companion article also published this Thursday in the journal Science.

Professor Hershkovitz adds that Nesher Ramla’s discovery of the Homo type questions the prevailing hypothesis that Neanderthals originated in Europe. “Before these new discoveries, most researchers believed that Neanderthals were a ‘European story’, in which small groups of Neanderthals were forced to migrate south to escape the expanding glaciers, with some reaching the Land of Israel about 70,000 years ago. ”

He adds that “the fossils of Nesher Ramla make us question this theory, suggesting that the ancestors of European Neanderthals lived in the Levant 400,000 years ago, repeatedly migrating westward to Europe and eastward to Asia. In fact, our findings imply that the famous Western European Neanderthals are just the remnants of a much larger population that lived here in the Levant, and not the other way around, “he adds.

According to Hila May, of the Sackler School of Medicine and the Dan David Center for Research in Human Evolution and Biohistory and the Institute of Anthropology of the Shmunis Family, located in the Steinhardt Museum of Tel Aviv University, despite In the absence of DNA in these fossils, Nesher Ramla’s findings offer a solution to a great mystery in the evolution of Homo: how the genes of Homo sapiens penetrated the Neanderthal population that presumably lived in Europe long before the arrival of Homo sapiens. “.

“Geneticists who have studied the DNA of European Neanderthals have previously suggested the existence of a population similar to that of Neanderthals, which they called the ‘lost population’ or ‘population X’, which had mated with Homo sapiens more than 200,000 years ago, “he recalls, but in the Science article, the researchers suggest that the type of Homo Nesher Ramla could represent this population, until now disappeared from the human fossil record.

Furthermore, the researchers propose that Nesher Ramla’s humans are not the only ones of their kind discovered in the region, and that some human fossils previously found in Israel, which have puzzled anthropologists for years – such as the Tabun cave fossils (160,000 years ago), the cave of Zuttiyeh (250,000) and the cave of Qesem (400,000) – belong to the same new human group now called the Homo type of Nesher Ramla.

“People think in paradigms – says Dr. Rachel Sarig -. That is why they have tried to attribute these fossils to human groups known as Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis or Neanderthals. But now we say: No. This is it. a group in itself, with different features and characteristics “, he assures.

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