The history of human evolution could well be rewritten … indeed scientists would have discovered that Europe is the cradle of humanity, not Africa.
At present, most experts believe that our human bloodline separated from monkeys about seven million years ago in Central Africa, where hominids remained for five million years before venturing further.
However, two fossils of a monkey-like creature that had human teeth were found in Bulgaria and Greece, they date from 7.2 million years ago.
The discovery of the creature, called Graecopithecus freybergi, and nicknamed “el Graeco” by scientists, proves that our ancestors were already beginning to evolve in Europe 200,000 years before the first African hominid.
An international team of researchers reported that the discoveries completely changed the beginning of human history and replaced the last common ancestor, both chimpanzees and men (the famous missing link) in the Mediterranean region.
At that time, climate change was transforming eastern Europe into savannah, which forced monkeys to find new resources, triggering, according to the researchers, a shift towards bipedalism.
“This study changes the ideas related to knowledge about the time and place of humanity’s first steps,” says Professor Nikolai Spassov of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, “Graecopithecus is not a monkey. It is part of the branch of hominids and is the direct ancestor of homo “.
The food of Graecopithecus was related to the rather dry and hard savanna vegetation, unlike that of the last great apes that live in the forests. Therefore, like men, it has wide molars and a thick enamel. To some extent, this is a newly discovered missing link.
The face of El Graeco probably resembles a great ape, with shorter canines.
The team analyzed the two specimens of Graecopithecus freybergi: a lower jaw found in Greece and a higher premolar tooth from Bulgaria.
Using tomography, they were able to visualize the internal structures of the fossils and see that the roots of the premolar had largely merged. “While great apes typically have two or three separate and divergent roots, the roots of Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused, a characteristic of modern man, ancient men and many pre-humans,” says the principal researcher on Professor Madelaine Böhmede of the University of Tübingen.
The lower jaw has other characteristics suggesting that the species was a hominid. It is several thousand years older than the oldest African hominid, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, which was discovered in Chad.
“We were surprised by our results, given that pre-humans were only known in sub-Saharan Africa,” adds doctoral student Jochen Fuss, who conducted this part of the study.
According to Professor David Begun, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Toronto and co-author of this study, “This dating allows us to move the man-chimpanzee separation in the Mediterranean region.”
During this period, the Mediterranean Sea has gone through frequent periods of drainage, forming a bridge between Europe and Africa and allowing monkeys and ancient hominids to circulate between the continents. The team believes that the evolution of the hominids may have been caused by significant environmental changes that triggered the formation of the North African Sahara, more than seven million years ago, Further north. A large number of sand layers of the Sahara dating back to this period are found, suggesting that it was located much farther north than at present.
According to Professor Böhm: “Our discoveries could change our ideas about the origin of humanity. Personally, I do not think that the descendants of Graecopithecusont have disappeared, they had to disperse later in Africa. The separation of chimpanzees and humans has only occurred once. Our data supports the idea that the separation occurred in the eastern Mediterranean, not Africa. If accepted, this theory will change the very beginning of human history. ”
However, experts are skeptical about these discoveries. For the retired anthropologist and anthropologist, Dr. Peter Andrews, who was at the Natural History Museum in London: “It is possible that the human lineage is native to Europe, but important fossil evidence places the origin in Africa , Including several partial skeletons and skulls. I would hesitate to use a single feature of an isolated fossil to fight against the evidence coming from Africa. ”
Source: Telegraph: ” Europe was the birthplace of mankind, not Africa, scientists find ”