New evidence found in the Iwo Eleru cave in West Africa in 1965 provides information that Later Stone Age humans shared physical characteristics with much older humans.
These findings added to recent evidence indicate that archaic and modern humans might have co – existed and cross – bred in Africa over a considerable period of time, indicating a more complex path of human evolution than previously thought.
An international team of researchers led by Professor Katerina Harvati from the University of Tubingen and Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum dated the specimen at around 13.000 years old which is a time long after the first appearance of modern humans about 200.000 years ago.
Yet its cranial shape is remarkably similar to African fossils that date to more than 100.000 years ago – in fact its nearest neighbor in the analyses is the Ngaloba (Laetoli 18) skull from Tanzania, thought to be about 140.000 years old.
Professor Katerina Harvati commented: “Our extensive morphological and dating analysis shows, that the evolution of modern humans in Africa was a complex process and that populations of archaic hominins or their genes survived in Africa much later than previously thought. Our findings also agree with recent genetic reports of admixture between archaic humans and anatomically modern humans in Africa as recently as 35 thousand years before present”.
Early modern human fossils from this Later Stone Age period are very rare in West and Central Africa. As well as providing insight into the complex origins of modern humans, this study also highlights the real lack of scientific knowledge about human evolution in West Africa, suggesting there is much more to discover in this region.