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Jean-Jacques Hublin, MPI-EVA, Leipzig

Until now, the story of early modern humans began about 200,000 years ago in East Africa, a cradle where our species was thought to have emerged and evolved. But a pair of studies published today in Nature describing fossilized human remains and stone tools found in Morocco suggests modern humans had moved across the continent at least 100,000 years earlier and continued to evolve.

"There is no Garden of Eden in Africa. Rather, the Garden of Eden is the size of Africa," Jean-Jacques Hublin, paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The find: Fossilized remains of a partial skull and lower jaw were found along with stone tools at a mining site between Marrakech and the Atlantic Coast of Morocco. Hublin and colleagues analyzed the new fossils along with others discovered at the same place in the 1960s and found facial and dental features that suggest they belong to the earliest Homo sapiens. (All together, they found the remains of three young adults, one adolescent and one child.) In a second study, Shannon McPherron and his collaborators dated the stone tools at the site and determined them to be about 300,000 - 350,000 years old. What it means: Modern humans emerged earlier than we thought and dispersed across the continent, continuing to evolve. The fossils are from people somewhere between Homo sapiens and modern humans - and closer to the latter. The evolution between the two was gradual and researchers want to know where it happened. The newly-found skull fossils indicate their faces were already similar to our's but that while the brain had reached its final size 300,000 years ago it had not evolved to our modern mind.

Shannon McPherron, MPI EVA Leipzig

Go deeper

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."

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