Despite an age of some 300,000 years, the oldest ancestor common to all Homo sapiens had a surprisingly modern skull, showing a modeling carried out by European paleoanthropologists.
The Homo sapiens emerged in Africa there are about 300 000 years, and its infancy remain mysterious to this day.
African fossils less than 500 000 years old are few, it lacks pieces to the puzzle of the history of our species.
In the present works, the Frenchman Aurélien Mounier, of the National Museum of Natural History of Paris, and the Briton Marta Mirazon Lahr, of the University of Cambridge, analyzed in detail 263 skulls old and current with the aim of making virtual fossils of missing elements.
We carried out a modeling to reconstruct possible morphologies to the ancestral population to all modern men.
Aurélien Mounier, paleoanthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History of Paris
Create a virtual fossil
There are currently only five skulls found in the Maghreb, East Africa and South Africa dating back to the period when Homo sapiens appeared in Africa.
To create a virtual fossil of the skull of the ancestor of Homo sapiens , the researchers modeled average individuals from 29 different populations: 21 modern living in different regions of the world and 8 fossil populations. They then went back up the evolutionary tree of Sapiens to deduce its morphological characters.
The features of this virtual fossil, whose theoretical age would be 300 000 years, appear relatively modern. He owns :
a rounded cranial box;
a relatively high forehead;
slight orbital bulges;
a face slightly projected forward.
Basically, its morphology is close to some fossils dating back to only 100,000 years ago.
Separate populations in Africa have helped to form the ancestral population of our species.
According to the authors of this work, published in the journal Nature Communications (New Window) , Homo sapiens was born from the hybridization of populations in southern and eastern Africa.
North African populations would have mixed with Neanderthals as a result of migrations to Europe, contributing less to our species.
These conclusions bring to the fore, once again, the hypothesis of a linear human evolution whose cradle would be East Africa.
They support the hypothesis, established by other researchers on the basis of genetic analyzes, that following a first exit from Africa which left traces only in Oceania, a second migration would have allowed to Homo sapiens successively populate Europe, Asia and America.