The story of humans’ origins got a revision in 2017

Business Insider | 12/31/2017 | Bruce Bower, Science News
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Scientists often presumed Homo sapiens emerged relatively quickly around a given time.

Discoveries reported in 2017 point to an earlier evolutionary phase.


Human origins are notoriously tough to pin down.

Fossil and genetic studies in 2017 suggested a reason why: No clear starting time or location ever existed for our species. The first biological stirrings of humankind occurred at a time of evolutionary experimentation in the human genus, Homo.

Homo - Sapiens - Signature - Skeletal - Features

Homo sapiens’ signature skeletal features emerged piece by piece in different African communities starting around 300,000 years ago, researchers proposed.

In this scenario, high, rounded braincases, chins, small teeth and faces, and other hallmarks of human anatomy eventually appeared as an integrated package 200,000 to 100,000 years ago.

Picture - Change - Contrasts - Scientists - H

This picture of gradual change contrasts with what scientists have often presumed, that H. sapiens emerged relatively quickly during the latter time period. Fossils clearly qualifying as human date to no more than about 200,000 years ago and are confined to East Africa.

But the discoveries reported this year — including fossils from northwestern Africa — point to an earlier evolutionary phase when the human skeletal portrait was incomplete. Like one of Picasso’s fragmented Cubist portraits, Homo fossils from 300,000 years ago give a vague, provocative impression that someone with a humanlike form is present but not in focus.

Speciation - Process - Event - Paleoanthropologist - Bernard

“Speciation is a process, not an event,” says paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “When fossil skulls of, say, Neandertals and Homo sapiens look convincingly different, we’re seeing the end of the speciation process.”

Discoveries in Morocco convinced one research team that direct predecessors of H. sapiens lived there about 300,000 years ago (SN: 7/8/17, p. 6). Fossils and stone artifacts unearthed at the archaeological site Jebel Irhoud display close links to later H. sapiens skeletons and tools. Digital reconstructions of a composite Jebel Irhoud skull revealed a modern-looking...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Business Insider
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