An active area of debate in the paleontological
and archaeological communities is the question of where mankind evolved.
Scientists generally believe that humans diverged
from Neanderthals around 500,000 years ago -- but the question of where they involved has provoked
much controversy. The prevailing sentiment has been that while primates
may have evolved in Asia or elsewhere, the human species evolved in
Africa. This notion has been supported by the fact that all the recent
major hominid discoveries    came from African
But a new discovery by archaeologists from Israel's Tel Aviv
University (TAU) argues that humans may have evolved in Israel, based on the
finding of 200,000-400,000 year old remains in Qesem Cave, a pre-historic site
located near Rosh Ha'ayinin in Israel Center District, which borders the
Prof. Avi Gopher, Dr. Ran Barkai, and Prof. Israel
Hershkowitz of TAU led the dig. Leading a team of international
researchers, they unearthed eight human teeth.
Previous studies have dated the cave as having
been accessible from 200,000 to 400,000 years ago. Morphological studies,
including CT scans and X-rays, showed that the teeth indeed belonged to modern
The researchers comment that evidence garnered at
the site showcases an industrious early society that engaged in systematic
production of flint blades; the regular use of fire; evidence of hunting,
cutting and sharing of animal meat; and mining raw materials to produce flint
tools from subsurface sources.
Scientists are analyzing the site and the various
items found therein for clues into how humans' physiology and behavior evolved
to its current state. The researchers believe the individuals whose
remains were found may have been poised at a critical point in human evolution
The researchers' assertion that humans did not
originate in Africa is supported by recent findings of human remains in China
and Spain that were older than expected. While these remains were not as
old as the Qesem Cave find, they were old enough to call into question the
African descent hypothesis.
The discovery of 100,000 year-old remains in the
Skhul Cave in the Carmel and Qafzeh Cave in the Lower Galilee near Nazareth,
Israel, was another important precursor to the current study.
The study can be found in the American
Journal of Physical Anthropology, and you can view the abstract here.