Researchers have come across a revolutionary discovery of a fossil that promises to rewrite history as we know it. A 7.2 million-year-old fossil shows that modern man may have originated in the Mediterranean and NOT in Africa as experts have sustained for years.
A team of Canadian and European researchers has just launched a controversial hypothesis about the origins of humanity that basically destroy an essential part of what we thought we knew so far about the origins of man and our history.
So why is this discovery so revolutionary?
Well, most of the scientific community assumes that the lineage of chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, and ours diverged between five and seven million years ago in Africa, where our direct ancestors developed.
However, the bold theory of two articles published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests that this separation occurred several hundred thousand years earlier than was believed and, what is even more surprising, did not occur on the African continent, but in the eastern Mediterranean.
The rare evidence was obtained after experts found two fossils of a rare hominid named Graecopithecus freybergi, after discovering its lower jaw in Greece and a superior premolar in Bulgaria, which according to the authors of the study belonged to an ancient hominid that lived on the European continent more than 7 million years ago.
The international team of experts led by Madelaine Böhme of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, and Nikolai Spassov of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, used computerized tomography to study the jaw discovered in 1944 at Pyrgos Vassilissis near Athens, which was considered for decades the remains of a monkey, and the premolar found in Azmaka, near the city of Chirpan, whose description appeared in 2012 in the Journal of Human Evolution.
In this way, scientists visualized the internal structures of the pieces and were able to show that the roots of the premolars were widely fused, a feature that according to experts brings them closer to the human family.
“While great apes typically have two or three separate and diverging roots, the roots of Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused – a feature that is characteristic of modern humans, early humans and several pre-humans including Ardipithecus and Australopithecus“, said Böhme.
As explained by experts, the lower jaw—discovered in Greece—nicknamed ‘El Greco’ by experts displays additional dental featured which suggests that the species—called Graecopithecus freybergi—belonged to the pre-human lineage.
“We were surprised by our results, as pre-humans were previously known only from sub-Saharan Africa,” said Jochen Fuss, a Tübingen Ph.D. student who conducted this part of the study.
What is even more interesting is the fact that Graecopithecus is believed to be SEVERAL hundred thousand years older than the oldest potential pre-human from Africa, the six to seven million-year-old Sahelanthropus from Chad.
Professor David Begun paleoanthropologist at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study added: “This dating allows us to move the human-chimpanzee split into the Mediterranean area.”
Experts are convinced that the evolution of pre-humans was greatly driven by dramatic environmental changes that occurred on Earth millions of years ago.
As phys.org explains, “The team led by Böhme demonstrated that the North African Sahara desert originated more than seven million years ago. The team concluded this based on geological analyses of the sediments in which the two fossils were found. Although geographically distant from the Sahara, the red-colored silts are very fine-grained and could be classified as desert dust. An analysis of uranium, thorium, and lead isotopes in individual dust particles yields an age between 0.6 and 3 billion years and infers an origin in Northern Africa.”
“These data document for the first time a spreading Sahara 7.2 million years ago, whose desert storms transported red, salty dusts to the north coast of the Mediterranean Sea in its then form,” the Tübingen researchers said.
“The phytolith record provides evidence of severe droughts, and the charcoal analysis indicates recurring vegetation fires,” said Böhme. “In summary, we reconstruct a savannah, which fits with the giraffes, gazelles, antelopes, and rhinoceroses that were found together with Graecopithecus,” Spassov added.
“The incipient formation of a desert in North Africa more than seven million years ago and the spread of savannahs in Southern Europe may have played a central role in the splitting of the human and chimpanzee lineages,” said Böhme. She calls this hypothesis the North Side Story, recalling the thesis of Yves Coppens, known as East Side Story.
The findings are described in two studies published in PLOS ONE titled “Potential hominin affinities of Graecopithecus from the late Miocene of Europe” and “Messinian age and savannah environment of the possible hominin Graecopithecus from Europe.”