back to article Feeling old? Well, we're older than that: Newly found Homo sapiens jaw dates back 350k years

It's a double-whammy discovery for fossil enthusiasts this week. Two groups of scientists have reportedly found the world's oldest known remains of Homo sapiens – and a really old mushroom. Both studies are independent. The bones were found at a site in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and date back approximately 300,000 to 350,000 …

  1. Randolf McKinley
    Meh

    More than one ...

    Err, Homo sapiens is not a plural, and there is no such thing as a Homo sapien.

    1. Gobhicks

      Re: More than one ...

      But, but ... "I'm a homo sapien too...". Surely the Buzzcocks could not have failed at Latin grammar.

      Or, is the plural of homo sapiens actually homos sapiens?

      1. Vic

        Re: More than one ...

        Or, is the plural of homo sapiens actually homos sapiens?

        If a plural were to exist, it would be homines sapientes. But I'm not so sure it makes much sense...

        Vic.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They always seem to find primitive tools near the bodies, I wonder if they had a religion where they had to buried with tools.

    Something to chew on.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      I would imagine any tools that primitive humans had, were invaluable and consequently always kept close.

      "You can have my flint axe when you pry it from my cold dead finger's" seems a likely scenario. I am not too sure burial practices go back that far.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        I would imagine any tools that primitive humans had, were invaluable and consequently always kept close.

        I'm sure I've read that, on the contrary, early hominids seem to have made and discarded tools in surprising quantities. It could be that once you have mastered the technique it's easier to knock up a new tool than find where you left the one you used last. Perhaps stone tools aren't convenient to carry around when you don't have any pockets.

        1. Tikimon

          If a stone tool isn't convenient to carry, the larger core stone you'll strike them from is certainly less so. You'll also need your knapping tools (some of which are also rocks) and your leather apron (flint chips are razor-sharp) when you're ready to make something. You don't just pick up some rocks and bang them together.

          Flint knapping is one of the few weird skillz I talked myself out of learning. It's hard, and takes lots of practice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > If a stone tool isn't convenient to carry, the larger core stone you'll strike them from is certainly less so.

            You seem very knowledgeable about the subject. How old are you? :-)

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "You don't just pick up some rocks and bang them together."

            Are you saying Douglas Adams was wrong? That's not a safe view to hold ;round these here parts!

          3. Timmy B Silver badge

            @Tikimon

            "Flint knapping is one of the few weird skillz I talked myself out of learning. It's hard, and takes lots of practice."

            You are 100% right - as a knapper I know that only too well. I am an amateur and don't want to think of how much pointless chippings and dust I've made to get where I am. It is still simple and easy when compared to the effort involved in producing bone and antler tools just using the flint tools. I was sawing through a buffalo rib with a knapped flint saw to make a hide scraper only last night......

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: @Tikimon

              "I was sawing through a buffalo rib with a knapped flint saw to make a hide scraper only last night......"

              Is there something you'd like to tell us? Is the end of the world nigh?

        2. Timmy B Silver badge

          "early hominids seem to have made and discarded tools in surprising quantities"

          That pretty much was the case when all they did was make a sharp edge by bashing two rocks together once. But when lithic technology improved they would carry part made and finished tools and tweak them when needed. And they did have pockets and pouches. It's far later in the period - into the chalcolithic - but look at Otzi and the belt he wore - this is a pocket.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Was it a burial place, or they died simply in that place for reasons we don't know, and then left there?

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Boffin

        Over worked slave dies by his tools and is left to rot me thinks.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "They always seem to find primitive tools near the bodies"

      They weren't that primitive. "Primitive" suggests hand axes. Blade tools like this extended well into the post-glacial. They look indistinguishable from Bann flakes. In fact somewhere I've got a knife very like G and a point very like K from Toome and Newferry in N Ireland.

    4. cray74

      They always seem to find primitive tools near the bodies, I wonder if they had a religion where they had to buried with tools.

      Obligatory SMBC

    5. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Religeon?

      Na - they weren't that stupid! I think its more likely that peoples property was part of their identity so everything they had was buried with them. If you've ever seen a grieving person hold the dead persons property you can see how that would work.

    6. Eddy Ito

      It says there were five found but doesn't state the relative positions of each. Perhaps the Nature article has the information but that information is not free. It's possible that it was a family where one took ill, transmitted the disease to the others, and ultimately all expired in close proximity. I can see where a simple bout of diarrhea might quickly make even the mere acquisition of food and water increasingly difficult. Without an accounting of the relative conditions of the specimens it would be difficult to say whether it was an organized grave or merely a case of the group dying in bed.

  3. Pompous Git Silver badge

    "I am not too sure burial practices go back that far."
    Earliest known burials go back ~100,000 ybp.

    Mystery Lingers Over Ritual Behavior of New Human Ancestor

    1. PK

      It might even go further back that that...

      https://www.newscientist.com/article/2124821-chimp-filmed-cleaning-a-corpses-teeth-in-a-mortuary-like-ritual/

  4. Zare

    Interesting article

    I enjoyed reading it

  5. Gordon Pryra

    Must be fake news

    How can they be true?

    After all, how can a human have a differently shaped head?

    I have seen pictures of Adam and he looks normal!! (if a tad white)

    Wont someone think of the sky fairy's?

    1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Re: Must be fake news

      Gordon Pryra» Wont someone think of the sky fairy's?

      Won't anyone think of the Sky Fairy's what? Sky Fairy's is in the genitive. It either needs an object or a correction.

    2. Farnet

      Re: Must be fake news

      that has always confused me.....

      Ok the first humans were Adam and Eve, they had two boys called Cain and Able, who subsequently had wives.......?!?!

      Where did the women arrive from (illegal immigrants from another god?)? and who married them? how? what ? who now??

      350k years ago very interesting, in the grand scheme of things that's only a blip in evolution, still amazed that there was a sub species and an African sub species that were remarkably different but had the ability to cross breed, that in itself show evolution itself with the same build blocks generate tend to follow similar paths... which leads me to an obvious conclusion.

      There are planets out there occupied and if there elemental and environmental make up are similar there is a good chance there will be the equivalent Homo Sapiens out there and not too far away. food for thought.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Must be fake news

        "Ok the first humans were Adam and Eve, they had two boys called Cain and Able, who subsequently had wives"

        The mistake made by Biblical literalists is that the "Book of Genesis" is actually a collection of creation myths, not a single coherent story, it's just than there was no Wikipedia in those days and nobody got told off for lack of attribution.

        If you are not brainwashed by the official interpretations that first line of the Bible actually reads "In the beginning the gods [Elohim, plural] made the Heavens and the Earth". It then goes on to recount myths relating to at least two other gods (YHVH and Adonai). Giants and angels put in an appearance and, later on in the OT, so do Baal and Rimmon.

        I know it's weird that a group of compilers around 600 BCE knew more about this stuff than, say, a Republican politician in 2017 AD, but it's just further evidence that homo sapiens probably hasn't increased in brain power in the last ten thousand years or so.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Must be fake news

          "In the beginning the gods [Elohim, plural] made the Heavens and the Earth". It then goes on to recount myths relating to at least two other gods (YHVH and Adonai)

          (Bangs head on desk).

          Perfect proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Firstly - elohim can be singular or plural. Secondly, YHWH (which stands for "I am who I am" or "I will be who I will be"[1]- ie a statement of eternity) the the name[2] of God revealed to the Israelites. Adonai (which simply means 'Lord') was their way of ensuring that they didn't commit accidental blasphemy by using the YHWH in the wrong context[3].

          [1] Ancient Hebrew only had two tenses - complete and imcomplete. So "i am" is equivalent to "I will be" unless the context suggests otherwise.

          [2] More accurately - a title. God doesn't appear to have a name as we would describe it. All the words he[4] is referred by are different aspects of his nature.

          [3] Modern Judaism still does this. As in the Shm'a (Hear O Israel, the Lord or Lord is one) is "Shm'a Yisroel, Adoni elahenu, Adoni achat."[4]

          [4] Apologies for any mis-spelling..

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Must be fake news - "(Bangs head on desk)."

            It isn't my fault that you have read what is a load of the post hoc justification invented by Biblical scholars belonging to particular Abrahamic religions - properly sects - to try to preserve the "inspired" narrative for the Bible. Rather than the knowledge put together patiently by the archaeologists (and associated subjects) working in the Near East.

            As for saying "a little knowledge" - I can tell you who has that. You have a garbled account of the "It is written and it is read".

            In pointed Torah - that's to say, with vowels - traditionally the name (YHVH) was written with the vowels of Adonai. Thus if a less than fully instructed person read aloud the sacred text, they would read the impossible word "Yehovah" instead of uttering the sacred names.I deduce from your incorrect account that you aren't Jewish. The pointing reminded the reader to actually say the word Adonai, though even that might be substituted depending on circumstances.

            In short, you really do not know of what you speak.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Must be fake news

            > which stands for "I am who I am" or "I will be who I will be"

            This is not my field of knowledge, but I do not believe there is any firm evidence as to the etymology of the tetragrammaton.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Must be fake news

              "tetragrammaton"

              Is that like an Orgasmatron but comes in fives?

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Must be fake news

                "Is that like an Orgasmatron but comes in fives?"
                An oblique reference to Mrs Palmer and her five daughters perhaps...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Must be fake news

          > If you are not brainwashed by the official interpretations that first line of the Bible actually reads "In the beginning the gods [Elohim, plural] made the Heavens and the Earth". It then goes on to recount myths relating to at least two other gods (YHVH and Adonai).

          Now, I haven't used my Hebrew since early adulthood and is more than a tad rusty at this point, so I could be very wrong about this, but to me elohim, although grammatically plural, refers to a single entity. It is a sort of pluralis majestatis, if you will.

          Adonai simply means "my lord" (cf. the modern Hebrew extremely polite form of address "adoni") and like elohim, is used in place of an actual name of God such as the tetragrammaton for literary or other reasons.

          Precisely the innovation in philosophical thinking brought about, or at least adopted, by the Israelites, was the idea of a single abstract entity as opposed to the pantheons found earlier, as well as in other cultures.

    3. Gobhicks

      Re: Must be fake news

      Downvote for egregious misapostrophication

      1. Gordon Pryra

        Re: Must be fake news

        And well deserved at that!!

  6. Tronald Dump

    Have ...

    Dept. of Work and Pensions deemed this person fit for work?

    1. wyatt

      Re: Have ...

      Yep, and HMRC are doing an audit..

  7. Hairy Spod

    is the jaw a really a fossil or is it a bone?

    not being arsey, genuine question

    1. Tikimon
      Headmaster

      Re: is the jaw a really a fossil or is it a bone?

      It WAS a bone, but its structure has been totally replaced by rock over the ages. Since this slowly occurs at the molecular scale, the resulting rock is a perfect cast of the original, so you can treat it as the actual bone for anatomical studies.

      Amazingly, a few fossils still contain preserved soft tissues (collagen, possibly blood cells) so some of the original animal is still there! The fossils actually smell bad, like something dead (Hell Creek Formation). Doesn't that blow your mind?

      Further weirdness, sometimes fossils are subjected to pressure and deform over time. There's a local T-rex skull that's noticeably flattened side to side and curved to the left.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: is the jaw a really a fossil or is it a bone?

      Good question. Basically a fossil is a thing dug up. So if a bone is buried and subsequently dug up it's a fossil bone (although you wouldn't really apply that the bone your dog buried in the garden yesterday). As to physical state - it varies.

      Some fossils can be simple casts of soft bodied organisms or plants where the entire organic material leaving a cavity which later filled up with a different type of sediment. I have a cast of a stigmarian axis (horizontal stem of a carboniferous club-moss). Fossil footprints are similar.

      The object might undergo some chemical change. It might, for instance, lose most other elements and be reduced to a layer of carbon. A more thorough process might replace organic matter with other minerals.

      OTOH in the right circumstances there might be little change. Amber is a hardened tree resin and, as we all ought to know by now, can preserve insects with little deterioration as it blocks out oxygen which would be needed for decay.

      Pollen grains, or, to be accurate, their protective sporopollenin walls are very well preserved in organic sediments although we generally describe them as sub-fossil if post-glacial. I encountered one black layer in an archaeological context which consisted of little more than a binding of humic acid (dissolved away in NaOH) and oak pollen.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: is the jaw a really a fossil or is it a bone?

      Technically, I believe it is each of the upper and lower bony structures in vertebrates forming the framework of the mouth and containing the teeth.

      (being arsey, preposterous answer, but what do you expect at this time of the day?)

  8. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    But this can't be true. By careful analysis of the facts of the bible, the earth is approximately 6500 years old. So DUH! there can't be a human living 350000 years ago or a 100 million year old mushroom or whatever. You people really ought to check your facts before posting such drivel. If God had meant us to understand the universe, he'd have given us the ability to do so.

    1. Gordon Pryra

      If God had meant us to understand the universe

      Well that depends on WHICH god you are talking about.

      And then which VERSION of that God.

      Once you have that part sorted, you can look at the various text revisions of their religious books

      Then again, once it comes down to it, the only two gods who matter are the ones that the "piss eyed tango monster" worships and the alternative option given by ISIS.

      You tend to find the Gods with the biggest standing army are the ones who get the billing as "the one true god"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If God had meant us to understand the universe

        I think someone may have had an irony detection fail. The last sentence gives it away.

      2. Kernel

        Re: If God had meant us to understand the universe

        "Then again, once it comes down to it, the only two gods who matter are the ones that the "piss eyed tango monster" worships and the alternative option given by ISIS."

        I think if you strip away the marketing crap and get down to the basics of the product you'll find it's just the same god that's been supplied in two of the three standard catalogue configurations - one god, one set of specs, three model variants, all available for immediate delivery off the shelf.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      But this can't be true. By careful analysis of the facts of the bible, the earth is approximately 6500 years old

      Which is, in fact, a relatively modern construct, derived by a certain Bishop Ussher in ~1650 CE. And, ignored by all until the modern Evangelical movement decided to fasten upon it.

      Serious Bible scholars know it to be a mistake. Especially since the word "father" does not imply immediate descent and the word "son" doesn't either (you get the same word used of people who live 1000 years after their famous named ancestor and are still called "sons of $ANCESTOR).

      Besides which, those Genesis genealogies are there for a different purpose than strict genealogies - they are to demonstrate descent from a particular ancestor of note, not a list of all the generations[1].

      [1] A similar idea is used in the Gospels for the ancestors of Jesus.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Which is, in fact, a relatively modern construct, derived by a certain Bishop Ussher"

        One of his successors, now retired, was a working archaeologist in the NI Archaeological Survey before going into the Church. I wish he'd made an ex cathedra comment about that.

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    350k years?

    Does this mean I'm going to have to grow up soon?

    1. Tikimon

      Re: 350k years?

      No wonder my joints creak so badly.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    350K years

    Maybe for you foreign types, but the good ole US of A was created by the Lord H Christ himself 6500 years ago!

    1. IT Poser

      Re: 350K years

      Nah, the USA was created in 1776. By this point it was evident that the previous nations that man had created were inferior. Therefore divine intervention was necessary and the greatest nation in the 6500 years of history was born.

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