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Wed 29 Dec 2010 09:49 AM

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Earliest evidence of modern man found in Middle East

New 400,000-year discovery suggests man originated in Middle East, not Africa as previously thought

Earliest evidence of modern man found in Middle East
FIRST MAN: A discovery by Israeli researchers may prove that modern man originated not in Africa, as is commonly thought, but in the Middle East (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

A discovery by Israeli researchers may prove that modern man originated not in Africa, as is commonly thought, but in the Middle East.

Eight human-like teeth have been found in the Qesem cave near Rosh Ha’Ayin, 10 miles from Ben Gurion airport. Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University said the teeth were 400,000 years old – from the Middle Pleistocene Age – which would make them the earliest known remains of homo sapiens.

The remains of homo sapiens discovered in Middle Awash, Ethiopia, were – at 160,000 years – previously believed to be the oldest modern human beings.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, which said the size and shape of the teeth were very similar to those of modern man.

Common thought holds that man evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago, migrating to the Middle East, Europe and Asia between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago.

According to the Journal, Professor Avi Gopher and Dr Ran Barkai at Tel Aviv’s Institute of Archaeology also found evidence of fire, hunting, and the cutting and mining of raw materials to produce flint tools, suggesting a sophisticated form of society.

“A diversified assemblage of flint blades was manufactured and used,” they wrote. “Thick-edged blades, shaped through retouch, were used for scraping semi-hard materials such as wood or hide, whereas blades with straight, sharp working edges were used to cut soft tissues.”

They said further research was needed to solidify their claim, but that if proven it “changes the whole picture of evolution.”

The Qesem cave was discovered in 2000 and has been the focus of intense study ever since.

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