Israeli archaeologists say they may have found the earliest evidence yet for the existence of modern humans.
A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said Monday they found teeth that were about 400,000 years old. The earliest Homo sapiens remains found until now are half that old, and were discovered in Ethiopia.
Archaeologist Avi Gopher said on Monday that further research is needed to solidify the claim, which is detailed in the December edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. If the claim is borne out, the discovery would change “the whole picture of evolution,” he said.
Accepted scientific theory is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and migrated outward about 80,000 years ago.
Sir Paul Mellars, a prehistory expert at Cambridge University, said that the find is “important,” but that it was premature to say the remains are from modern humans. He said the teeth are more likely from ancient relatives of Homo sapiens, such as the Neanderthals or their ancestors, which are thought to have left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The teeth were found in the Qesem Cave, which was uncovered by Gopher and a colleague at Tel Aviv University, Ran Barkai. An international team of experts analyzed the teeth, using CT scans and X-rays, and determined that their sizes and shapes were similar to those of modern humans, according to the Jerusalem Post.