Scientists discovered a 400,000-year-old fossil human cranium in Portugal, altering the understanding of how humans evolved.
The cranium is one of the oldest fossils of its type ever discovered and the westernmost human fossil from the mid-Pleistocene epoch ever found in Europe. Other mid-Pleistocene fossils found by scientists are often poorly dated and lack a clear archaeological context.
“This is an interesting new fossil discovery from the Iberian Peninsula, a crucial region for understanding the origin and evolution of the Neandertals,” Dr. Rolf Quam, an anthropology professor at Binghamton University, said in a press statement Monday.
“The Aroeria cranium increases the anatomical diversity in the human fossil record from this time period, suggesting different populations showed somewhat different combinations of features.”
The cranium was near abundant animal remains and stone tools, including numerous hand axes. Its proximity to these these things indicates the humans of the region were more modern and diverse than originally believed as they were hunting and using tools.
The new fossil will form the centerpiece of an exhibit on human evolution at a museum in Lisbon, Portugal.
Earlier this month, University College London researchers discovered a fossil indicating life on Earth likely started up to 4.5 billion years ago. Before this discovery, the oldest confirmed life on Earth was dated to 3.4 billion years ago, leading scientists to speculate that life probably started around 3.7 billion years ago.