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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

Driving the news: James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

3 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.

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