Homo sapiens Origins: when “Moderns” were Archaic.
The last half million years witnessed a remarkable diversification of hominin lineages. Among them early Homo sapiens, Neandertals and Denisovans displayed the widest geographical distribution. Although genetics sheds some light on their mutual relationships, the early phases of their evolution are poorly documented in the fossil record. The site of Jebel Irhoud in Morocco yielded the oldest evidence regarding the ancestry of our own species in Africa, in direct association with a well stratified early Middle Stone Age archeological assemblage. 300,000 years ago, the Irhoud hominins already displayed anatomical conditions reminiscent of those observed in more recent Homo sapiens in combination with more primitive features. This discovery challenges the notion that our species originated in sub-Saharan Africa and that so-called “Modern Humans” suddenly emerged 200,000 years ago. The current evidence rather supports a pan-African origin of Homo sapiens as well as a rather gradual evolution of present day human ancestors over a long period of time.