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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

Exclusive: GOP Leader McCarthy asks to meet with Biden about the border

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at CPAC. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the rising numbers of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, in a letter sent on Friday.

Why it matters: Biden is facing criticism from the right and the left as agency actions and media reports reveal spiking numbers of migrant children overwhelming parts of the U.S. immigration system. Recent data shows an average of 321 kids being referred to migrant shelters each day, as Axios reported.

Vaccine hesitancy drops, but with partisan divide

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

69% of the public intends to get a COVID vaccine or already has, up significantly from 60% in November, according to a report out Friday from the Pew Research Center.

Yes, but: The issue has become even more partisan, with 56% of Republicans who say they want or have already received a coronavirus vaccine compared to 83% of Democrats.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

China's 5-year plan is hazy on climate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.

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