New type of ancient human found in Israel

New type of ancient human found in Israel

Dr. Hila May of Tel Aviv University said the discovery reshaped the story of human evolution, particularly our picture of how the Neanderthals emerged. The general picture of Neanderthal evolution had in the past been linked closely with Europe.

“It all started in Israel. We suggest that a local group was the source population. During interglacial periods, waves of humans, the Nesher Ramla people, migrated from the Middle East to Europe”, Dr. Hila told pressmen.

She also suggests that these humans were the ancestors of Neanderthals, saying, “The European Neanderthal actually began here in the Levant and migrated to Europe while interbreeding with other groups of humans”.

The latest discovery of an unknown type of ancient human that lived alongside our species more than 100,000 years ago were made by researchers working in Israel. They believe the remains uncovered near the city of Ramla represent one of the last survivors of a very ancient human group.

The finds consist of a partial skull and jaw from an individual who lived between 140,000 and 120,000 years ago. The team members think the individual descended from an earlier species that may have spread out of the region hundreds of thousands of years ago and given rise to Neanderthals in Europe and their equivalents in Asia.

The team thinks that early members of the Nesher Ramla Homo group were already present in the Near East some 400,000 years ago and have named the newly discovered lineage the ‘Nesher Ramla Homo type’. The researchers also noticed resemblances between the new finds and ancient ‘pre-Neanderthal’ groups in Europe.

Speaking to pressmen after the discovery, Dr. Rachel Sarig from Tel Aviv University noted, “There are several human fossils from the caves of Qesem, Zuttiyeh and Tabun that date back to that time that we could not attribute to any specific known group of humans but comparing their shapes to those of the newly uncovered specimen from Nesher Ramla justify their inclusion within the new human group”.

According to Prof. Israel Hershkovitz, who opined that others travelled east to India and China, suggesting a connection between East Asian archaic humans and Neanderthals in Europe, “Some fossils found in East Asia manifest Neanderthal-like features as the Nesher Ramla do”.

It should be noted that the researchers base their claims on similarities in features between the Israeli fossils and those found in Europe and Asia, though their assertion is controversial. Prof Chris Stringer, from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, has recently been assessing Chinese human remains of which he remarks, “Nesher Ramla is important in confirming yet further that different species co-existed alongside each other in the region at the time and now we have the same story in western Asia”.

The Nesher Ramla remains were found in what used to be a sinkhole located in an area frequented by prehistoric humans. This may have been an area where they hunted for wild cattle, horses and deer, as indicated by thousands of stone tools and bones of hunted animals.

According to an analysis by Dr. Yossi Zaidner at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “It was a surprise that archaic humans were using tools normally associated with Homo sapiens. This suggests that there were interactions between the two groups. We think that it is only possible to learn how to make the tools through visual or 

oral learning. Our findings suggest that human evolution is far from simple and involved many dispersals, contacts and interactions between different species of human”.

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