Archaeologists report finding a fossil from Grotte Mandrin in France that reveal the presence of anatomically modern Homo sapiens in Europe between 56,800 and 51,700 years ago. The discovery indicates that the migration of modern humans into Europe and the match with Neanderthals is more complex than we studied before.
Our species, Homo sapiens, emerged in Africa over 300,000 years ago, and anatomically modern humans by at least 195,000 years ago.
The first fossil of early modern humans outside Africa are found in Israel at 194,000 to 177,000 years ago and possibly Greece by 210,000 years ago.
Modern human fossils was found in East Asia as early as 80,000 years ago, and from archeological evidence, modern humans migrated Australia by 65,000 years ago.
In Europe, however, the appearance here seems to be much later than in other places, partly due to ecological barriers and/or the occupation of the region by Neanderthals.
The earliest evidence of Homo sapiens settlement in Europe is constrained to around 45,000-43,000 years ago based on five isolated dental remains from three Italian sites and one site in Bulgaria.
Unearthed stone tools
The new proof from Grotte Mandrin near the town of Malataverne, Mediterranean France, pushes this date back by about 10,000 years.
Professor Stringer and colleagues unearthed the dental remains of at least seven individuals in 12 archaeological layers of Grotte Mandrin.
They identified six of these individuals as Neanderthal, but in a layer sandwiched between the Neanderthal layers, a deciduous upper molar from a modern human child was found.
Unearthed stone tools, which has previously been regarded as a technological anomaly due to its distinctive features and the fact it had been found in between classic Neanderthal Mousterian layers.
Different from other places, in Grotte Mandrin, the presence of modern human molars for the first time, marking a direct association of stone tools with the Homo sapients.
Important things are enlightened
These important findings indicate also suggest the Mediterranean basin played a major role in the geographic expansion of modern humans into Western Eurasia.
“In Grotte Mandrin, you’ve got a really nice sequence dated between about 60,000-40,000 years ago,” Professor Stringer said.
“In there are Mousterian stone tools made by Neanderthals, then the Neronian, then back to Mousterian tools, and then afterwards the appearance of modern humans with the Aurignacian industry.”
“The presence of the modern human molar alongside the Neronian is where the story really gets firmed up — both Neanderthal and modern human populations replaced the other several times in the same territory.”
“The findings from Mandrin are really exciting and are another piece in the puzzle of how and when modern humans arrived in Europe,” Professor Stringer said.