We’ve always assumed that the last common ancestors we share with chimpanzees originated in Africa. But new research, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests that the first pre-humans might have actually originated in Europe 7 million years ago.
A team of researchers analyzed a set of fossils that belong to the Graecopithecus freybergi species: a jaw discovered in Greece and an upper premolar discovered in Bulgaria.
The jaw bone was found in 1944 when German soldiers were digging into the ground to build a bunker in Greece. Now, thanks to the technological advances of the 21st century, scientists are able to examine the fossils using computer tomography.
Thanks to their examinations, scientist saw that the premolars are fused, which is a characteristic present in modern humans.
“We were surprised by our results, as pre-humans were previously known only from sub-Saharan Africa,” said Jochen Fuss, a Ph.D. student who was part of the study.
This new research tells us that the major splits between the hominid family might have occurred outside of Africa.
Scientists believe that the split in the hominid family occurred due to environmental changes. They used technology to reconstruct what the geological conditions looked like in the Mediterranean and the Sahara and found that the desert extended to Southern Europe.
This means that there was a barrier between Africa and the locations where the Graecopithecus fossils were found.
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