A new population of Homo calls Neanderthal history into question

A new population of Homo calls Neanderthal history into question

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

(Photo: Yossi Zaidner) The discovery of new human-like fossils always poses the same questions: who did they belong to? 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, again, of some fossils coming from Israel, belonging to a population renamed Homo di Nesher Ramla, from the homonymous excavation site in the center of the country. 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 with some Neanderthal and some ancient traits individuals of the genus Homo, may have been key in the history of our mixed past, also by virtue of its geography. And which leads us to look at Neanderthal history in a different way. So suggest the authors behind the discovery in the official presentations on the pages of Science, led by a team from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to which researchers from the S apienza University of Rome and the Natural History Museum of University of Florence.

The remains of the Homo population of Nesher Ramla (Photo: Avi Levin and Ilan Theiler, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University) The fossils found are just a few bones belonging to two different individuals: parts of a skull , an almost complete mandible with a few teeth, not far from stone tools and the remains of animals such as horses and fallow deer that helped the researchers position the discovery, evolutionarily speaking. And that seems to upset, at least for now, the history of Neanderthal cousins, as explained by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University, first author of the paper: "Before 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 some 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 goes on. origin and evolution of Neanderthals, would also help explain the gene flow of sapiens in this species, added Hila May also from Tel Aviv University, who 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, such as a marked similarity in the way of working the stones of Homo sapiens, suggest a closeness and interaction of these populations of the Middle Pleistocene with our ancestors, we read in the paper that is paired in Science with the presentation of the Nesher Ramla population.

The fossil remains of the new Homo population have been found together with animal fossils and some human artifacts (Photo: Yossi Zaidner) have undergone 'mosaic' evolutionary phenomena, which have brought out the typical characteristics of Neanderthals, as well as those of us Homo sapiens - added Giorgio Manzi, paleoanthropologist of the Sapienza University of Rome, one of the authors of the paper - we also observe in Italy with the skeleton of the Lamalunga cave, near Altamura, in which all the analyzes that we have been able to carry out so far mo strange a sort of evolutionary blend ".

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