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Greek find called earliest sign of our species outside Africa

The Associated Press

The Apidima 1 partial cranium fossil, right, is shown with a digital reconstruction from a posterior view, center, and a side view.

The Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Scientists say they’ve identified the earliest sign of our species outside Africa, a chunk of skull recovered from a cave in southern Greece.

Its estimated age is at least 210,000 years old, making it 16,000 or more years older than an upper jaw bone from Israel that was reported last year. It shows our species began leaving Africa much earlier than previously thought, researchers reported Wednesday.

The travelers to Greece evidently left no descendants alive today. Other research has established that the exodus from Africa that led to our worldwide spread didn’t happen until more than 100,000 years later. The new work is the latest sign of earlier, dead-end exits from the continent where Homo sapiens evolved.

The fossil, from the rear of a skull, was actually found decades ago — excavated in the late 1970s from the Apidima Cave in the southern Peloponnese region of Greece and later kept in a University of Athens museum.

“Not a lot of attention was paid to it,” said Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, who was invited to study the fossil.

Harvati and others report the results of their analysis in the journal Nature. To establish the age, they analyzed bits of bone from the fossil. To identify what species it came from, the researchers compared a virtual reconstruction to the shapes of fossils from known species.

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