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February 2, 2015 4:09 am

Ancient Skull Uncovered in Upper Galilee Cave Proves Modern Humans Migrated From Africa

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avatar by Yotam Rozenwald / Tazpit News Agency

The ancient skull. Photo: IAA.

A 55,000 year old human skull found at the Dan David-Manot Cave in the western Galilee, has proven to be of great importance to the study of modern human origins.

According to Dr. Omry Barzili, one of the researchers heading the excavation project, the skull “constitutes the earliest fossilized evidence outside of Africa. It indicates that modern humans originated from Africa, and migrated to other parts of the world.”

The cave and the skull were discovered by accident back in 2008, during an enlargement of the nearby village of Manot. A bulldozer laying down sewage infrastructure uncovered the entrance to an active Krastic cave. “After the discovery of the cave Dr. Ofer Madrer examined it and concluded that there were important Pre-Historic findings in the cave,” Dr. Barzili told Tazpit News.

“The skull was found on a bedrock ledge in the center of the cave. It was covered with cave deposits called ‘flowstone’. We dated the flowstone by means of Uranium-Thorium to 55,000 BC,” Dr. Barzili said.

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Later on, a Morpho-metric analysis of the skull was conducted. It concluded that the skull belonged to a modern human being – with similarities to modern skulls from Africa on the one hand, and the ancient skulls of modern humans from Europe on the other.

Two main hypotheses currently dominate the research on the origin of modern humans. The first claims modern humans originated from an ancient population core, which is 200,000 years old, from East Africa. Theorists believe they migrated to other parts of the world approximately 100,000 years ago. The second hypothesis claims today’s modern population originated in a later wave of migration that happened some 65,000 years ago. The finding seems to confirm the latter.

While the first hypothesis is supported by DNA that was extracted from bones, the second hypothesis lacked fossil evidence – until now. “The skull is the first modern human remains outside of Africa that date back to the period between 65-45,000 years ago. It is the missing link that validates the claim that modern humans originated from a wave of migration that happened about 65,000 years ago,” Dr. Barzili told Tazpit News Agency.

As for the future, Dr. Barzili thinks the cave can be an interesting site for tourists: “I hope that the cave will be open for the general public sometime in the future. The cave is really beautiful, it contains a central chamber and additional side chambers,” he told Tazpit News Agency.

The cave and its findings have been researched for five years in a joint project of the Tel Aviv University, Israel Antiquities Authority, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, headed by Professor Israel Hershkovitz, Dr. Omry Barzilai and Dr. Ofer Marder. Many other institutions participated in the research, said Dr. Barzili, both Israeli and foreign, including the Geological Survey of Israel, Weizmann Institute of Science, Hebrew University, University of Haifa, University of Vienna, Harvard University, Case-Western University, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Columbia University, and Simon Fraser University.

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