Tel Aviv University researchers have uncovered evidence indicating the presence of modern humans (Homo-sapiens) in Israel about 400 thousand years ago.
This is the earliest period in which evidence of modern humans in the world has been found. The findings were discovered in the Kessem Cave of Magic, a para-historical site near Rosh HaAyin that was discovered in the year 2000, and are now published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
Researchers Professor Avi Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai from the Department of Archaeology, who run the Kessem cave excavation, and Professor Israel Hershkovitz, from the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, conducted in collaboration with an international team of scientists, eight morphological dental analysis of the remains of people found in the Kessem Cave.
Very detailed morphological analysis of dental X-ray CT scans indicate that the teeth size is similar in shape and very similar to those of modern humans that until now were only in findings from 200 thousand years ago in the African Continent. The Kessem Cave teeth are also very similar to the findings of modern humans in Israel, which were dated at about 100 thousand years old, in the Ashul and Caramel Caves in the Lower Galilee near Nazareth.
The Kessem Cave dates to the period between 200 thousand to 400 thousand years ago, and in the archeologists' opinion, the findings indicate significant changes in the behavior of ancient humans. This period is a very significant stage in human history -- culturally and biologically, and the fact that a modern man's teeth were found, indicates that these changes apparently related to evolutionary changes that have occurred in man.
Professor Avi Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai said the findings are unique to the culture of the Kessem Cave dwellers, such as systematically arranged production of flint blades, regular use of fire, hunting patterns, dismemberment and distribution of meat and livestock, mining of raw materials from the ground -- all strengthen the hypothesis that this is indeed an innovative behavior and integrates well with the appearance of modern humans.
Researchers say that the Kessem Cave discovery should change the widespread perception, that the origin of modern humans is from the African Continent.
In recent years archaeological finds of human skeletons in China and Spain might appeal to this theory, but the findings from the Kessem Cave are now far more significant, as the earlier age is undoubtedly an exceptional archaeological discovery.
The Kessem Cave excavations continue, and the diggers hope that more evidence will be discovered to allow for additional confirmation of the findings from the published study, and to deepen the understanding of human evolution and especially the emergence of modern man.