Phillipp Gunz, co-author of the Nature paper and a Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology scientist, told Seeker, "It is unlikely that Homo sapiens evolved locally in Morocco. Instead, we believe that Homo sapiens evolved somewhere else in Africa and dispersed across the entire continent. This is based on the distribution of the earliest Homo sapiens fossils from North Africa, South Africa, and East Africa, as well as the pan-African distribution of the Middle Stone Age tools."
As these populations dispersed, they likely interbred with other human species in Africa. Homo naledi, for example, may have coexisted for a period of time with Homo sapiens in South Africa, fossils suggest.
Similarly, in Europe and Asia, "modern humans overlapped for a long period of time with existing hominin groups such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo heidelbergensis, and even Homo erectus," Hershkovitz said. "Modern morphology evolved through this interaction."
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It is possible that descendants of the early Homo sapiens populations who out of Africa were seeking prey and additional resources. Multiple lines of evidence show that Neanderthals and other humans native to Europe and Asia often hunted big game.
These large animals, though, disappeared from Israel around 400,000 years ago, Hershkovitz said. Nevertheless, the Misliya animal remains show that populations of smaller prey, such as deer, seem to have been prevalent in parts of the Levant.
Hershkovitz and his colleagues are currently excavating two other caves in Israel, the Es-Skhul Cave south of the city of Haifa and the nearby Tabun Cave, located within the Nahal Me'arot Nature Reserve.
"We hope,” he said, “to find more hominin fossils that will shed light on the people who lived in the region between 100,000 to 200,000 years ago."
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