PerspectiveAnthropology

When did modern humans leave Africa?

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Science  26 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6374, pp. 389-390
DOI: 10.1126/science.aas8954

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Summary

The skeletal features of our species, Homo sapiens, include a globular braincase, brow ridges that are divided into central and side portions, a flat and retracted midface, a chin on the lower jaw, and a narrow pelvis. Fossils showing many of these characteristics have been excavated from the Ethiopian sites of Omo Kibish and Herto, dated at ∼195,000 and ∼160,000 years ago, respectively (1). Possible more primitive members of the species are known from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) and Florisbad (South Africa), dated at ∼315,000 and ∼259,000 years ago, respectively (1). Yet, the oldest known H. sapiens fossils outside of Africa, from Skhul and Qafzeh in Israel, have been dated to just 90,000 to 120,000 years old. On page 456 of this issue, Hershkovitz et al. (2) provide fossil evidence from Misliya Cave, Israel, suggesting that our species had already left Africa by ∼180,000 years ago (see the figure).