Shalom Life | October 17, 2015

55,000-Year-Old Skull Discovered in Israel Sheds Light on First Humans in Europe

Skull disovered near Nahariya is "a key piece in the puzzle of human evolution”

By: Daniel Koren

Published: January 30th, 2015 in News » World


Photo: A skull fragment found in the Manot Cave (left) alongside modern human (center) and Neanderthal skulls

Credit: Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel


A 55,000-year-old skull discovered near the northern Israeli city of Nahariya may be the evidence scientists have been searching for, as it may be the first instance of a "connecting link" between Neanderthals and and the modern homo sapien.

In fact, according to Dr. Israel Hershkovitz, one of the leading authors of a paper published in scholarly journal Nature detailing the find, "it's a key piece in the puzzle of human evolution."

Hershkovitz, along with scientists from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University and the Israel Antiquities Authority, have studied and researched the skull of the anatomically modern human upon its discovery in 2008, claiming that the rare find illustrates the hominid exodus from Africa to Europe 60,000 years ago, when modern homo sapiens began colonizing it.

“This is one of the most important missing pieces because it allows you to connect the African hominids with the European hominidsmm," said Dr. Hershkovitz of the skull, which was found alongside other Paleolithic remains in a cave in Manot, Western Galilee.

He added that it could be between 50,000 and 60,000 years old.

Closely examining the skull, research has proved that the Manot people “could be closely related to the first modern humans who later successfully colonized Europe.”

“There was some slight difference in the brain structure,” Hershkovitz explained. “But you can’t automatically correlate it with mental capacity or intelligence. What it means, what it tells you, you don’t know.”

Hershkovitz adds that while the hominid species left Africa some 100,000 years ago, the species became extinct. Humans have no DNA extracted from this species, but, according to genetic analysis, are a product of interbreeding between those wanderers who left Africa some 60,000 years ago and Neanderthals.

Today, with some four percent of the human DNA being Neanderthal, the discovered skull illustrates candidly the "love story that scientists talk about between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.” In fact, the Manot cave remains, as Israeli anthropologist Dr. Ofer Marder calls it, a "time capsule" after its entrance was shut off by an earthquake some 13,000 years ago, preserving much of what remained inside.

Other fragments located in the Manot Cave include stone and bone tools, fragments of deer, gazelle and hyena bones, and human skeletal remains, which are approximately 20,000 to 45,000 years old.


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