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Fossilized bones of prehistoric human found in Israel

June 24, 2021

Experts have been analyzing the remains of Homo Nesher Ramla and have uncovered possible links with our species of today.

The fragments of a skull and a lower jaw with teeth
The fragments of a skull and a lower jaw with teeth were over 100,000 years oldImage: Tel Aviv University/dpa/AP/picture alliance

The bones of one of the early humans who walked the earth between 120,000 and 140,000 years ago have been found buried in an Israeli quarry, archaeologists revealed on Thursday.

Researchers dug up the fragments of a skull and a lower jaw with teeth nearly a decade ago.

Experts at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have spent years analyzing the remains.

What were their main findings?

Anthropologists concluded that the remains belonged to one of the very last survivors of a group of archaic humans who are believed to be closely related to European Neanderthals.

The specimen has been branded Homo Nesher Ramla after the limestone quarry in central Israel where it was uncovered.

The excavation site where Homo Nesher Ramla was uncovered
The bones were found in a quarry just outside Tel AvivImage: Yossi Zaidner/dpa/AP/picture alliance

"The teeth have some unique features that enable us to draw a line between these populations,'' said Tel Aviv University dental anthropologist Rachel Sarig.

She is one of the co-author of the papers published Thursday in the journal Science.

What are the implications of those findings?

Tel Aviv University physical anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, another co-author, said the remains are from "some of the last survivors of a once very dominant group in the Middle East."

Our species, homo sapiens, may have lived alongside them, according to the findings.

Scientists working on the dig found the bones about eight meters (25 feet) deep among stone tools and among the skeletons of horses and deer.

Nesher Ramla combines some characteristics of Neanderthal man, especially his teeth and jaws, and early humans, especially the skull.

But they are also completely different in other ways, with no chin, and very large teeth.

The new findings suggest that homo sapiens and Neanderthal-like groups overlapped in the Middle East over a significant amount of time, probably tens of thousands of years.

The authors of the paper said there were likely cultural and genetic exchanges between the groups.

"The Neanderthal story can no longer be told as a European story only. It's a much more complicated story," said Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University.

jf/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)