Researchers have claimed that a broken skull found from a cave in Greece is the oldest modern human fossil ever found outside Africa, The Guardian reported.
The partial skull was discovered in the Apidima cave on the Mani peninsula in southern Greece and is estimated to be at least 2,10,000 years old, becoming the oldest known modern human fossil in Europe.
A second skull found in the Grecian cave belonged to a Neanderthal who lived 1,70,000 years ago, according to a new study published in Nature. Researchers believe that finding both skulls in the same cave illustrate that early humans migrated in multiple stages out of Africa rather than a single event, CNN reported. Southeast Europe is considered to be a major migration corridor out of Africa.
“Our results indicate that an early dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa occurred earlier than previously believed, before 2,00,000 years ago,” said Katerina Harvati, the director of paleoanthropology at the University of Tübingen in Germany. “We’re seeing evidence for human dispersals that are not just limited to one major exodus out of Africa.” Harvati is among the authors of the study.
The skulls were discovered in 1978 when the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens was conducting research, according to CNN. They were found in a block of broken fragments of rock and fossil cemented together and wedged between the walls of the Apidima Cave.
The skulls were stored in a museum in Athens, but received little attention as they were damaged and incomplete. The second skull, which retains a face, was studied the most and identified as Neanderthal, according to The Guardian. The first skull, consisting only of the back of the skull, was largely ignored,
Harvati and her colleagues took CT scans of the fossils and created virtual 3D reconstructions. The models were then compared with skulls from various ancient Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and modern humans. The researchers found that the partial skull closely matched that of a modern human.