This scientific illustration shows 7.2 million years ago in a dusty savannah landscape in the Athenian Basin. The southeast over the plane of Athens covered by a red cloud covered with Sahara dust; in the background the Hymettos mountains and the Lykabettos mountain.
Germany- Not in Africa, but in the Balkans, scientists have found evidence of a 7.2-million-year-old Vormenschen-type and shake the previous doctrine on Africa as a so-called cradle of humanity and suspect that at the same time The lines of development of chimpanzees and humans here may have separated several hundred thousand years earlier than previously thought.
Like the team from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in two simultaneously published publications in the journal Plos One, they examined two fossil finds of the Graecopithecus frey bergi with the most modern methods and came to the conclusion that this is a previously unknown species.
On the basis of this conclusion, the scientists also suspect that the splitting off of the human lineage took place in the eastern Mediterranean and not, as has often been assumed, in Africa.
The question of when the next living relatives of humans, the chimpanzee, separated from the Meschen, or when their last common ancestor lived, has always been a central and highly controversial research topic in paleoanthropology: So far, research is on the rise that the lines separated five to seven million years ago and the first Vormenschenart originated in today’s Africa. According to the theory of the French paleoanthropologist Coppens of 1994 could thereby climate change in East Africa play a crucial role. With the new study, the research team from Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Canada, France and Australia has now devised a completely different scenario for the earliest human history.
As part of their study, the researchers investigated the only two known findings of hominid Graecopithecus frey bergi: a lower jaw from excavations in Greece and a tooth from Bulgaria. Using computed tomography, the researchers visualized the internal structure of the fossils and showed that the roots of the prebend teeth were largely fused.
However, it is precisely this fact that distinguishes humans, primitive man and some primitive man species (Ardipithecus and Australopithecus) from apes, which usually have two or three separate tooth roots.
Lower jaw of the 7.175 million year old Graecopithecus frey bergi from Pyrgos Vassilissis, Greece (today’s urban area of Athens).
The lower jaw, named after the name also has further features on tooth roots, which, according to the experts, now indicate that Graecopithecus is a representative of the early humans could act. We were surprised by our results, because until now, pre-human beings were only known from sub-Saharan Africa, who carried out this study.
In addition, the scientists dated the age of Graecopithecus several hundred thousand years before the earliest potential African forebear, the six to seven million year old Sahelanthropus from Chad.
Due to the sedimentary sequences of the sites in Greece and Bulgaria, the researchers come to a nearly identical age of both fossils of 7.24 and 7.175 million years. This was the beginning of the so-called Messinium, at the end of which came the desiccation of the Mediterranean. With this dating, the separation of the Vormenschen- and the chimpanzee line in the eastern Mediterranean can be moved, the researchers.
Similar to the theory that the first pre-human beings originated in East Africa, the team around now assumes that a dramatic environmental change has led to the emergence of the pre-human: as the authors of the study based on geological studies of sediments from which salvaged from both pre-human remains, the Sahara emerged in North Africa more than seven million years ago:
Parallel to the emergence of the Sahara in North Africa, the scientists have also developed a savanna landscape in Europe – as the scientists also show in their work. This in turn fits together with Graecopithecus fossils of ancestors of today’s giraffes, gazelles, antelopes and rhinos were found.
The emergence of a first desert in North Africa more than seven million years ago and the simultaneous spread of savanna in southern Europe could have played a central role in the separation of the human lineage from the lineage of the chimpanzees