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Modern humans emerged in eastern Africa at least 38,000 years earlier than scientists previously thought. That conclusion was drawn from traces of a colossal volcanic eruption used to date the earliest undisputed Homo sapiens fossils. 

The remains, dubbed Omo I, were discovered at the Omo Kibish site near Ethiopia’s Omo river in the 1960s. Previous estimates dated the human fossils to around 195,000 years old. Now, new research published Jan. 12 in the journal Nature, tells a different story — the remains are older than a colossal volcanic eruption that rocked the region roughly 233,000 years ago. 

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