I grew up knowing that human beings originated from Eastern Africa but that notion has been shattered after work by researchers at the University of Tubingen in Germany led by Madelaine Bohme from and Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Nikolai Spassov traced the first hominid species to Europe some 7.2 million years ago after discovery of two apelike fossils with human-like teeth in Bulgaria and Greece.Unlike the existing theories, this new theory means humans may have originated in Europe and not in Africa as we have all been meant to believe and which may significantly rewrite the history of evolution. According to the research team, the common lineage of great apes and humans split several hundred thousand years earlier than assumed.The research published in the journal PLOS ONE shows that the split of the human lineage occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean and not as customarily assumed in Africa. Researchers have assumed up to now that the lineages diverged five to seven million years ago and that the first pre humans developed in Africa. The new research now outlines a new scenario for the beginning of human history. The team analysed the two known specimens of the fossil hominid Graecopithecus freybergi, a lower jaw from Greece and an upper premolar from Bulgaria.Graecopithecus is several hundred thousand years older than the oldest potential pre-human from Africa, the six to seven million year old Sahelanthropus from Chad.The lower jaw, nicknamed ‘El Graeco’ by the scientists, has additional dental root features, suggesting that the species Graecopithecus freybergi might belong to the pre-human lineage.
The research team dated the sedimentary sequence of the Graecopithecus fossil sites in Greece and Bulgaria with physical methods and got a nearly synchronous age for both fossils 7.24 and 7.175 million years before presently documented fossils. Researchers visualised the internal structures of the fossils and demonstrated that the roots of premolars are widely fused using computer topography. Also, researchers claim the fossils are solid evidence evolution started in the Mediterranean region 200,000 years earlier than it did in Africa. Researchers detailed that the North African Sahara desert originated more than seven million years ago. The team concluded this based on geological analyses of the sediments in which the two fossils were found.Although geographically distant from the Sahara, the red-coloured silts are very fine-grained and could be classified as desert dust. “These data document for the first time a spreading Sahara 7.2 million years ago, whose desert storms transported red, salty dusts to the north coast of the Mediterranean Sea in its then form,” researchers said. “While great apes typically have two or three separate and diverging roots, the roots of Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused – a feature that is characteristic of modern humans, early humans and several pre-humans including Ardipithecus and Australopithecus,” said Bohme.”It is at the beginning of the Messinian, an age that ends with the complete desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea,” Bohme said. “The incipient formation of a desert in North Africa more than seven million years ago and the spread of savannahs in Southern Europe may have played a central role in the splitting of the human and chimpanzee lineages,” said Bohme. After reading this research, I can bet it will be challenged but if the new theory holds, then history will be rewritten for the sake of current and future generations.