A new population of Homo calls Neanderthal history into question

Some fossil remains of a still unknown human population point to reconsider the typically European birth and evolution of Neanderthals. The details in two papers in Science

(Photo: Yossi Zaidner)

The discovery of new ones fossils with human features, he always asks the same questions: to whom did they belong? Who did those bones represent? What place does it have in the complex human history? The answers are often vague, and provisional, awaiting the arrival of new discoveries, but fundamental to being able to have a more complete look at our history. The same happened with the discovery, yet, of some fossils coming from Israel, belonging to a renamed population Homo of Nesher Ramla, from the homonymous excavation site in the center of the town. They are between 140,000 and 120,000 years old, and all the analyzes conducted so far, including those of the environment in which they lived (understood as human and animal reluctant artifacts) suggest that this population has some Neanderthal and a few ancient such individuals Homo, may have been key in the history of our past mixed, also by virtue of its geography. And which leads us to look differently above all at the history of Neanderthal. So suggest the authors behind the discovery in the official presentations on pages of Science, led by a team from Tel Aviv University and of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to which the researchers of the Sapienza University of Rome and the Natural History Museum ofUniversity of Florence.

The remains of Nesher Ramla’s Homo population (Photo: Avi Levin and Ilan Theiler, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University)

I fossils found are but a few bones belonging to two different individuals: parts of a skull, an almost complete jaw with some teeth, not far from stone tools and the remains of animals such as horses and fallow deer that helped the researchers to position the discovery, evolutionarily speaking. And that seems to upset, at least for now, the history of the cousins Neanderthal, as he explained Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University, first author of the paper: “Prior to these discoveries, most researchers believed that Neanderthals were a European history, with small groups of Neanderthals forced to migrate south to escape expanding glaciers, with some arriving in the lands of Israel around 70,000. Years ago. Nesher Ramla’s fossils lead us to revise this theory, suggesting that the ancestors of European Neanderthals lived in the Levant as early as 400,000 years ago, and repeatedly migrated west to Europe and true east to Asia. In fact, our findings imply that the famous Neanderthals of Western Europe are only remnants of a larger population that lived here in the Levant and not vice versa “.

Not only that, but embracing this vision on the origin and evolution of Neanderthal, would also help explain the gene flow of sapiens in this species, he added Hila May also from Tel Aviv University, which took part in the research. In fact it is probable that Nesher Ramla was the archaic population imagined by some who mixed with the sapiens about 200 thousand years ago. Even the cultural and technological testimonies, as a marked similarity in the way of working the stones of homo sapiens, suggest a closeness and interaction of these Middle Pleistocene populations with our ancestors, yes law in the paper that pairs up Science with the presentation of the population of Nesher Ramla.

Fossil remains of the new Homo population have been found along with animal fossils and some human artifacts (Photo: Yossi Zaidner)

“This is the confirmation that the human populations of the Middle Pleistocene underwent ‘mosaic’ evolutionary phenomena, which brought out the typical characteristics of Neanderthals, as well as those of us Homo sapiens– he added Giorgio Manzi, paleoanthropologist of the Sapienza University of Rome, among the authors of the paper – This is what we also observe in Italy with the skeleton of the Lamalunga cave, near Altamura, in which all the analyzes we have been able to conduct so far show a sort of evolutionary blend “.

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