What is life? The future of Biology: The first of our kind. How fossils and genes force us to rethink the evolution of Homo sapiens
Speaker: Philipp Gunz, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Dept. of Human Evolution
The lecture is followed by a discussion in a smaller group at 14.15 –15.30 in meeting room next to lecture hall, Nobel Forum, KI Solna Campus.
Hosts: Hugo Zeberg, Dept of Neuroscience and Ingemar Ernberg, MTC, KI
Nature abstract: the latest spectacular finding on the earliest Homo Sapiens in Africa
Fossil evidence points to an African origin of Homo sapiens from a group called either H. heidelbergensis or H. rhodesiensis. However, the exact place and time of emergence of H. sapiens remain obscure because the fossil record is scarce and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. In particular, it is unclear whether the present day ‘modern’ morphology rapidly emerged approximately 200 thousand years ago (ka) among earlier representatives of H. sapiens1 or evolved gradually over the last 400 thousand years2. Here we report newly discovered human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and interpret the affinities of the hominins from this site with other archaic and recent human groups. We identified a mosaic of features including facial, mandibular and dental morphology that aligns the Jebel Irhoud material with early or recent anatomically modern humans and more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. In combination with an age of 315 ± 34 thousand years (as determined by thermoluminescence dating)3, this evidence makes Jebel Irhoud the oldest and richest African Middle Stone Age hominin site that documents early stages of the H. sapiens clade in which key features of modern morphology were established. Furthermore, it shows that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of H. sapiens involved the whole African continent.Contact person: Ingemar Ernberg