The bone fragments from a face 1.4 million years old found in Spain may be the oldest known fossil of a European human ancestor. This bumps further back the record-holder by 200,000 year. The bone is not of our species Homo Sapien at this age but most likely be from an extinct and mysterious human relative.
According to the Atapuerca Foundation, a fragment of the upper jaw bone and cheekbone was found during archaeological excavations in Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Spain. The Atapuerca Foundation announced their monumental discovery at a Friday press conference.
It is well-known that this site was once home to prehistoric human ancestors. Scientists discovered the remains of an unknown hominin at the site in 1994. It was dubbed Homo Antecessor, Latin for "pioneer man"; its name refers to the fact that this species was the first human species to venture into western Europe. Although its identity isn’t known, some researchers believe it to be one of the last common ancestors among Homo Sapiens or Neanderthals.
Although the team is not certain of the human species to which the new jaw and cheekbone belong, they are eager to find out how they relate to Homo Antecessor. They also want to know if fossils can provide clues into how certain facial features developed among different species of humans.
In 2007, another groundbreaking discovery was made at Atapuerca when hominin remains dating back to 1.2million years ago were discovered. This new discovery was made at a deeper layer of the geological rock, which suggests that it may have been around 200,000 years ago.
Radiocarbon dating will be used to confirm the results at the National Center for Research on Human Evolution, Burgos. According to AFP, these results are expected to be available in the early part of next year.
These discoveries have shed light on a crucial chapter of archaic human history, the migration waves out of Africa. These bones are likely to belong to an individual who was part of the first European human settlement.
It would take a while before they were joined together by Homo sapiens. Homo Sapiens, anatomically modern Homo sapiens, evolved in Africa 300,000. Years ago. The ancestral ancestors of the current human population outside Africa didn't leave Africa until around 60,000 years ago. They probably arrived in Europe about 45,000 years ago. They quickly replaced the Neanderthal population, who were exterminated around 40,000 years earlier.