Nesher Ramla Hominin: Discovery of a previously unknown type of homo | Archeology, Paleoanthropology
Nesher Ramla’s hominids lived between 420,000 and 120,000 years ago in the Middle East and had a distinctive combination of Neanderthal (especially teeth and jaws) and archaic Homo (especially the skull) characteristics; they perfectly mastered a technology which, until recently, was linked to Homo sapiens or Neanderthals; they were efficient hunters of big and small game, using wood for fuel, cooked or roasted meat, and kept fires.
“The discovery of a new type of Homo is of great scientific importance, ”said Professor Israel Hershkovitz, a researcher at the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology and the Shmunis Institute of Family Anthropology at Tel Aviv University.
“It allows us to give new meaning to previously found human fossils, add another piece to the puzzle of human evolution, and understand the migrations of humans into the old world.”
“Even though they lived so long ago, at the end of the Middle Pleistocene (474,000 to 130,000 years ago), the Nesher Ramla people can tell us a fascinating story, revealing much about evolution and the way of life of their descendants. “
Professor Hershkovitz and his colleagues unearthed hominid bones and associated stone tools as well as animal bones (horse, fallow deer and aurochs) at the Nesher Ramla archaeological site in Israel.
“This is an extraordinary find,” said Dr Yossi Zaidner, a researcher at the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa.
“We never imagined that next door Homo sapiens, archaic Homo traveled the region so late in human history.
“Archaeological findings associated with human fossils show that the Nesher Ramla Homo possessed advanced technologies for the production of stone tools and most likely interacted with Homo sapiens. “
The discovery of Nesher Ramla Homo calls into question the dominant hypothesis according to which the Neanderthals were originally from Europe.
“Prior to these new findings, most researchers believed that Neanderthals were a European story, in which small groups of Neanderthals were forced to migrate south to escape expanding glaciers, some arriving in the Land of Israel there. is about 70,000 years old, “said Professor Hershkovitz. .
“Nesher Ramla’s fossils make us question this theory, suggesting that the ancestors of European Neanderthals lived in the Levant 400,000 years ago, migrating several times west to Europe and east to Europe. ‘Asia.”
“In fact, our findings imply that the famous Neanderthals of Western Europe are just the remains of a much larger population that lived here in the Levant – and not the other way around.”
“The oldest fossils with Neanderthal characteristics are found in Western Europe, so researchers generally believe that Neanderthals originated there,” said Professor Rolf Quam, a researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Binghamton, at the Centro UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, and the Anthropology Division of the American Museum of Natural History.
“However, the migrations of different species from the Middle East to Europe may have provided genetic contributions to the Neanderthal gene pool during their evolution.”
The researchers were careful not to attribute the Nesher Ramla fossils to a new species of Homo.
Rather, they grouped them together with earlier fossils from several sites in the Middle East – such as Tabun Cave (160,000 years ago), Zuttiyeh Cave (250,000 years ago), and Qesem Cave (400,000 years ago) – which have were difficult to classify and view all as representing a local population of humans who occupied the area approximately 420,000 to 120,000 years ago.
“People think in paradigms. This is why efforts have been made to attribute these fossils to human groups known as Homo sapiens, homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis or Neanderthals, ”said Dr Rachel Sarig, a researcher at the Shmunis Institute of Family Anthropology and the Department of Oral Biology at Tel Aviv University.
“But now we say, no. It is a group in itself, with distinct characteristics and characteristics. “
“Later, small groups of Nesher Ramla Homo migrated to Europe, where they evolved into the classical Neanderthals we know well, and also to Asia, where they became archaic populations with Neanderthal-like characteristics.
“Europe was not the exclusive refuge of Neanderthals from where they sometimes spread to Western Asia,” added Professor Gerhard Weber, researcher in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and the Center for Micro-tomography of the University of Vienna.
“We believe that there has been a lot more sideways trade in Eurasia, and that the Levant is geographically a crucial starting point, or at least a bridgehead, for this process.”
The research is described in an article in the journal Science.
Israel Hershkovitz et al. 2021. A Middle Pleistocene Homo by Nesher Ramla, Israel. Science 372 (6549): 1424-1428; doi: 10.1126 / science.abh3169