Carl Zimmer, writing for The New York Times: Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday. Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins. The fossils also show that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways (alternative source). Until now, the oldest fossils of our species, found in Ethiopia, dated back just 195,000 years. The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa. “We did not evolve from a single cradle of mankind somewhere in East Africa,” said Phillipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany. Today, the closest living relatives to Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share a common ancestor that lived over six million years ago. After the lineages split, our ancient relatives evolved into many different species, known as hominins. For millions of years, hominins remained very ape-like. They were short, had small brains, and could fashion only crude stone tools. Original research paper here.
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