New prehistoric human unknown to science discovered in Israel – The Jerusalem Post
When the researchers understood that the bones they had retrieved did not belong to either a Neanderthal or a Homo sapiens, they started to examine the possibility that they belonged to the last survivors of a more archaic population that they thought had become extinct hundreds of thousands of years earlier.
“We started to look for other members of this population, and we discovered that some fossils previously unearthed at other prehistoric sites in Israel, including the Qesem cave, belonged to the same group,” Hershkovitz said.
“We therefore realized that we were dealing with a huge population that lived in the region, and probably also migrated in different directions, including in Asia and in Europe and later became the humans we know as Neanderthal.”
According to Hershkovitz, Nesher Ramla Homo and Homo sapiens not only coexisted peacefully and exchanged technology, but also produced offspring.
“They engaged culturally and biologically,” he said. “In Europe, the story was very different because when modern humans arrived there around 45,000 years ago, they completely eliminated the local Neanderthals. This did not happen here.”
“We think that some later fossils we found in several caves dating back to 100,000 years ago probably belonged to offspring of sapiens and Nesher Ramla,” he added.
For example, in the Qafzeh cave in the Lower Galilee, archaeologists found the remains of several humans presenting the features of both species, some closer to the sapiens, some to the Nesher Ramla.
“It is similar to what happens when we see that certain children look more like their mother and some look more like their father,” Hershkovitz noted.
The scientists were not able to extract any DNA from the fossils.
“Warm weather destroys DNA,” Hershkovitz said. “In Israel, we have not been able to find any preserved DNA from earlier than 15,000 years ago.”
For this reason, the researchers’ conclusions are based on the morphology of the bones found.
“People think in paradigms,” said TAU Dr. Rachel Sarig. “That’s why efforts have been made to ascribe these fossils to known human groups like Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis or the Neanderthals. But now we say: No. This is a group in itself, with distinct features and characteristics.”
In the past, geneticists had already suggested that an unknown population represented the missing link between sapiens and Neanderthal, as pointed out by another researcher, Dr. Hila May. The Nesher Ramla population could represent the answer.
“As a crossroads between Africa, Europe and Asia, the Land of Israel served as a melting pot where different human populations mixed with one another, to later spread throughout the Old World,” she added. “The discovery from the Nesher Ramla site writes a new and fascinating chapter in the story of humankind.”