Are Modern Humans Really Older Than We Thought?

Are Modern Humans Really Older Than We Thought?

You and I might be older than we thought. Not us personally— us as in Homo sapiens,
or anatomically modern humans. That’s a term that refers to someone whose bone structure falls within the range of humans alive today. Someone who wouldn’t look too out of place
if you just saw them walking down the street. For a long time, fossil evidence for anatomically
modern humans went back less than two hundred thousand years. But an international team of researchers,
publishing this month in the journal Nature, have found what they’re calling early Homo sapiens fossils that are around three hundred thousand years old, at a site called Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. This research has been making headlines as
a scientific breakthrough, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that. What we can say for sure is that these papers are more evidence in an ongoing anthropological puzzle, and we should keep revising our ideas of exactly
when, where, and how we first evolved. We know anatomically modern humans arose from
archaic humans like Homo erectus in Africa. And the 200,000 year figure has been pretty
persistent, but there have been hints that Homo sapiens is actually older than that. For one thing, a DNA study published last
year suggests ancestral humans might have diverged genetically from ancestral Neanderthals
more than 500,000 years ago. We’ve also found fossils older than 200,000
years that look like Homo sapiens, but they were too fragmentary to be sure. Before these recent papers, the fossils from
Jebel Irhoud didn’t seem like important evidence in this age debate. The site has yielded hominin fossils since
1960, but sloppy or inaccurate dating led researchers to think they were
as young as 40,000 years. One estimate based on radioactive uranium
and a technique called electron spin resonance put them at around 160,000 years old. Even that is kinda boring if you’re looking for human origins, so the site was consistently overlooked. But the current find involves new excavations
and a dating technique that turned the clock back past 300,000 years. The excavations found new hominin fossils
near flint tools, along with charcoal and burned mammal bones, which suggests they were probably using fire. Some of the tools were cracked as if they
had been heated, and that opened them up to a dating technique
known as thermoluminescence. Crystals of certain common minerals, like
flint, which is a form of quartz, tend to trap electrons over time. Those electrons come from a source like sunlight or the natural radioactive decay of elements in the ground. When those crystals get heated up, the electrons
get enough energy to escape. The crystals zero out, and start building
up electrons again. When some early Homo sapiens let their tools
get toasty, they reset the electron content of the quartz crystals. And because electrons build up at a steady
rate, it creates an electron clock. The number of electrons is proportional to
how long it’s been since the crystals were last heated. The researchers then heated the tools again, which
forced the electrons out in the form of weak light. By measuring that light, they could tell how long it had been since those tools got left in the flames, and then use that to estimate the age of the fossils
found in nearby rock. The number they came up with was around 315,000
years, plus or minus a few. And then they double-checked by doing some more
radioactive uranium and electron spin resonance dating on a fossilized tooth, which gave an estimate of 286,000 years. So the fossil ages are pretty solid, but researchers
don’t entirely agree about how much they shake up the picture of when and where
anatomically modern humans emerged. Modern humans from the last 130,000 years
have relatively small faces and globe-shaped braincases, which is the back part of your skull. The Jebel Irhoud hominins shared the small faces, but their braincases were more elongated than
what you would see in people today. Earlier thinking had modern humans arising
in a rapid evolutionary event 200,000 years ago, taking place somewhere in East Africa, in
which our faces and braincases both changed from ancestral hominins. This research isn’t the first to question
that thinking, but the mix of archaic and modern traits in
these fossils might mean a couple of things. For one, the sudden emergence of anatomically
modern humans is probably thanks to the fossil record, not
a real event. The Jebel Irhoud fossils suggest a transitional
form, in which humans evolved small faces early or even kept them from an archaic ancestor,
and didn’t get the modern braincase until later. So even though it’s flashy and exciting
to claim that these are the earliest Homo sapiens, it isn’t necessarily a clear-cut label. The paper authors say that these fossils are early
Homo sapiens, and most scientists seem to agree that these
are our direct ancestors, at the very least. Whether you consider them recent humans or not, this discovery also suggests that hominins
like the Irhoud folks were living all over Africa. The study authors point to 260,000 year old
fragmentary remains from South Africa, which their research confirms could plausibly
be Homo sapiens. South Africa isn’t exactly an afternoon stroll
from Morocco, and neither are terribly close to a hypothetical
East African origin for modern humans. The researchers say all this evidence points
to a pan-African view of human evolution, with no one site being the unique cradle of
humanity. As is often the case in biology, it was more
of a mess. A mess that’s elegant in its complexity,
because it all fits together if you can find all the evidence, which we are still doing. And still reporting on, here on SciShow News! If you like this weekly update about what’s happening in the realms of science, you should check out news on SciShow Space, too. And don’t forget to go to
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100 thoughts on “Are Modern Humans Really Older Than We Thought?”

  • What we’ve literally being saying for decades, Africa is the cradle of humanity. And Europeans have committed a great sin against their own creator

  • It appears that homoerectus lasted at least two million years. It looks like they were probably more successful than we are likely to be, given our penchant for mass violence and for poisoning our surroundings.

  • It appears to be true that there were physically modern humans before mentally modern humans. There appears to have been a cognitive revolution that started about seventy thousand years ago which created the thinking of the human animal in a very big way. This evolutionary event appears to have not happened in Neanderthals.

    The use of stone tools is much older than modern humans, yet those tools remains the same without significant change for a very, very long time. The changes began to appear about seventy five thousand years ago.

    The modern human body appears to have been around longer than we thought but it may well be that the modern human mind is only about seventy thousand years old.

  • Modern humans should consider themselves lucky if they don't have to live on that Hell Hole any more. I mean, look at the modern history. General Butt Ass Naked, etc. Cannibalism. War. Literally the worlds butt hole to live.

  • There weren't 'archaic' humans ancestors before us. They were perfectly formed to fit their environment for millions of years.

  • I've got an interesting question what if a human, mammal, reptile or even a dinosaur that died at lets say just 500k yrs mark for instance, what if they died of radiation specifically how would that effect carbon dating if at all? throw in any other time you want aswell

  • If you are interested in the origins of H. Sapiens (and all other members of the genus), you may enjoy watching a new theory’s short introductory video presentation @ (8 min. or you can just read the pinned comment), proposing as the birthplace/natural environment of our species a permanent warm coastal fog most likely existing for 2.6 million years at the periphery of the Irish Sea Glacier (during late Pleistocene).
    Alternatively, you can google “Pleistocene permanent warm coastal fog”, or if you can spare two hours, please visit

  • Hank I have another idea to throw out there. The average age must have been close to about 30 back then. Even in just the span of one of those lifetimes our earliest ancestors could've spread elsewhere even if just a handful .every family or tribe has the wandering offspring and it's possible our earliest ancestors could've traveled to Africa.i got that idea because those bones were excavated in Morocco a coastline which right above is France who's genome just so happens to not be related to anyone else's strangely… Hmm lol ..i would love to hear your thoughts and possible corrections on this thought experiment 🖖

  • Looking at the comments past the few top rated is a depressing fall down the rabbit hole into racist conspiracy theories and pseudoscience peppered with a few actually decent quips.

  • The Jebel Irhoud Homo sapiens braincases which appear to be more elongated than globe-shaped are "composite fossils" meaning these scientists are acknowledging they assembled pieces from different individuals to create a more complete skull. Since when is this an acceptable practice with any kind of fossil? Wasn't it a big controversy when that Archeoraptor fossil published by NatGeo turned out to be a composite fossil? Doesn't this undermine the significance of any apparent distinguishing characteristics?

  • They found a a new human with a a DNA that goes back to 300,000 years past the 200,000 your mark so three hundred thousand years is the standard belief at the moment

  • When we discovered that our DNA can change as we are alive, due to trauma or the environment or other factors, it is pretty clear that evolution is how we got here. Are used to have a little reservation until I learned about this

  • The real question, are they telling the truth?
    I mean we just believe in these things without any evidence, I mean a scientist is just a human like us they also seek wealth and fame so lies are very probable.

  • Fire and stone tools date back to Homo Erectus, so unless you are concluding that the stone tool technology was produced by Homo Sapiens, I don't think that the date of the fire has much significance.

  • Regardless of when we got started 300,000 years ago in Morocco, or Yemen, or wherever. There are 9 Billion of us Humans now, today. So keeping up with our present time. It's time we close our legs! And stop having sex. And work with the 9 Billion of us already here. Just how many mouths do you want to feed, and give driving lessons to?

  • Hasn't mitochondrial eve been dated to 250k years ago for a while now? This would fall in line with the 300k date at this site.

  • That flies in the face of DNA mitochondrial information that shows that modern humans are only between 120000 to 200000 years old. Hi wondering, if they may have found an offshoot of homo erectus that appears to be homo sapien. But they will have to be able to do DNA to verify. DNA is telling us more and more things everyday as we get better at reading it. Provided we don't use it to confirm previous biases. Or create new ones.

    A new dating procedure, applied in a completely new way. Does anybody else see the flaw in this logic?

  • the problem with time estimation is interpretation that hides facts. facts are measured proportions of materials in a fossil. interpretation may be wrong because of error in procedures or unknown facts, like volcano activity (or some unknown and not yet measured mantle activity) that could change substance proportions in atmosphere.
    if you eat fossils – your fossils will be considered older tan they are.

  • Thanks good video?
    So we've been like we are for 300,000 years now. But we've only been technically advanced since the 1500s, and really advanced since say Newton's time? Hmmm…

  • What if the tools were made by super intelligent frogs before the full evolution of modern man. The super intelligent frogs could have been stomped out of existence by early humans that were still clumsily trying to figure out walking upright on two feet.

  • Like almost every bit of "knowledge" the majority of people receive in our modern world it is all driven and controlled by money. Without research dollars there is no "science" so what you are told is what those providing the dollars want you to hear. The entire process is corrupted and contemptible but it will still be the same tomorrow. Truth often seems irrelevant to modern science.

  • The electron dating seems questionable. What if the flint wasnt heated sufficiently to free all the electrons. Let's get other supporting data, like the age of the escavation layer….anything other that electron buildup.

  • We have already kind of known about this for a long time. humans older than 160,000 years are typically called archaic homo sapien or just homo sapiens with fossils ranging from 600,000-200,000 years old. Modern humans from roughly 160,000 years ago to modern day are homo-sapien.SAPIENS or homo sapiens II. There are distinct differences between the two. Archaics are typically more robust and have variable skull structures.

  • Many thought, as far back as the 70's, based more on speciation from chimpanzees than direct fossil evidence, as closer to 5 million years. When you figure in evidence of controlled fire at a full million years ago, all these guys are pretty recent.

  • I know that simplifications need to be made, but the statement that sunlight contains electrons is a bit misleading.

  • It seems that heating flint/chert makes it easier to work. Could this heating be on purpose and not accidentally?

  • Who ever came up with the idiotic idea that modern humans stem from the same primates in Africa is a complete idiot and so is everybody who still believes him.

  • Out of Antarctica! screw pan-Africa, my money is on modern humans moving up through all three of the southern continents. That makes way more sense than migration in multiple waves that suddenly raced around to Australia and then moved onto the closer places.

  • Evolutionary speaking, is Donald J Trump a throwback, or a harbinger of what we are to become????
    I fear the latter.

  • I love this show and am excited when I see new content! I have recently heard of a theory about how humans got our consciousness and it seems pretty wild. It states that we got our consciousness from eating psychedelic mushrooms, called the stoned ape theory. Is there any backing to this? And if so could you do a video on it? Thank you!

  • The "when" is inherently dependent on the "what", i.e. how you define modern humans, as your comment on the skull shapes acknowledges.

    Why the forced pace of delivery? In print we leave space between paragraphs, but you meticulously edit out the breathers we need between your spoken paragraphs, which impedes comprehension.

  • I had seen something once about neadrothal and dionysian may have lived alongside homo sapian at some points in history. They also showed that a significant amount of genetic markers from homo sapien can also be found in Neanderthals and dionysian species. Interesting stuff

  • The content is good but something about the way he speaks is very, very annoying to me. So that's why I give it the thumbs down. Get a new narrator

  • How old things are is always based on the earliest known evidence, the emphasis being on the word 'known' and not the word earliest

  • This January humanity will already be celebrating the Modern year 12020, since first construction of Göbeli Tepe in what is today Southeast Turkey.
    But I don't think modern society really kicked in until I Love Lucy was first broadcast in 1951. Of course The Flintstones lived even farther back during the Stone age. Then there's the Bone age when we made tools out of animal skeletons, back when Bernie Sanders was a kid.

  • accordinf to latest DNA science… DNA scientists are saying cromagnon man and neanderthal man were smarter stronger and lived longer than us. DNA which seems to be a type of computer code….. today science has computer software that can take DNA and recreate an image through their software of the person the DNA comes from. look it up. Evolution isn't possible. science clearly shows you are a sound frequency of particle light. An electromagnetic field of energy surrounded by electromagnetic energy traveling through a field of electromagnetic energy. Every particle of matter has knowledge and laws written into their members. the only reason science can be science. Science tears open the fabric of reality to discover the laws and knowledge that already exist. Knowledge existed before reality.

  • Oh and I might add paleontologist are falling off the evolution band wagon in droves. finally they can see with the scientific information at hand that evolution isn't possible and everything seems to built for our existence here on planet earth.

  • We can find primitive "Homo Sapiens" today, which if remains were to be dug up, and due to the immediate surroundings, we'd probably assume that what we've found would indeed be ancient in origin. I can't think of one species, other than Homo Sapiens, that has changed as much as we believe, man has changed! 200,000 years is nothing in an evolutionary time frame. "Modern" humans have been around for a lot longer than we thought in the past. After the deluge, which probably wiped out most of humanity, we began to repopulate the earth and I'm certain that something will happen again to decimate our species.

  • I assume the results are frequency dependent not on brightness, otherwise it'd be a problem of accounting for surface area + intensity + who knows what other variables.

  • The out of Africa theory is BS.
    The whole Africa theory is based on WASHED UP bones of ONE ancient negroid, with the location of where the bones came from still unclear.
    We have discovered a new species of ancient human on just literal splinters of a leg bone, there is still much to learn.
    Examples on where to start:
    The original Egyptians were of European origin.
    The oldest mummy in china is a Caucasian. (Further research has been halted after that discovery)
    The oldest remains in Israel's graveyard had blue eyes, (all blue eyes are linked to the ancient aryan race from the black sea.) all research was then ((halted)) after this discovery aswell.
    Also: Neanderthals have hardly any genetic link to Africans, (the ones who do, usually have a European ancestor)
    Neanderthals do however have a direct genetic link to Europeans and Asians.
    So if we think we devolved from Neanderthals…and Neanderthals resided in Europe…how does The "out of Africa" theory make any sense?

  • If those brain cases worked 300,000 years ago, what was the evolutionary need for them to change? And, have any skulls been found showing gradations of adaptation from then to modern man? — I just get confused on why there'd be a change – and do we know it was for the better? – and what intelligence determined that there needed to be this change, because it doesn't make sense that something that'd worked for millennia would decide it was no longer working. And why was the change to what we have today – what is more efficient and/or "better"?

    And how do we know the level of intelligence – what if they were smarter than we are today? Just because they lived a simple life doesn't mean they were less intelligent. They may have lived a much smarter lifestyle: whole foods, no pollution, etc.

    I just remember that my college biology professor said that if you'd dress up one of those fellows in a suit, he wouldn't be the best looking guy around, but he'd blend in because we can't say that they were covered in fur/hair or anything.

  • It's homo sapiens sapiens actually. Neanderthals' scientific name, for example, is homo sapiens neanderthalensis as they were very closely related to us. So much so that they were able to interbreed with us.

  • Yet the out of Africa theory has been disproven as they have found Nordic peoples with absolutely 0% African blood mitochondria

  • The difficulty with tracing this stuff back so far…. The climate in all of the these places… Sea levels, ice caps, etc… Has changed multiple times over the course of 200 – 300,000 years… The Sahara has probably flipped between desert and lush multiple times…

  • Then why is this if Africa had a head start?

    Only 150 years ago Zulus in mud huts were the top civilization in mid to south Africa.

  • Gosh. I wonder how many times we had technological advancement and population wiped out… if it took us 200,000 years to get to 201,776, I am embarrassed to be a human.

  • Epistemologically the best one will ever do in analyzing the past is probability. There are no laws that can pierce the veil of time. Everything past becomes more and more uncertain as the length of time increases from origin to the present. A polite way of saying studies into the deep past are guesses that are at best unlikely. This was entertaining from an archaeological and anthropological perspective.

  • I can't believe paleontologists would think that humans just happen to be exactly as old as the oldest fossil they have managed to stumble across. Is that the media being lazy? Why would kids be taught humans are "200,000 years old" rather than "we don't know but the oldest fossils so far recovered are 200,000 years old"?

    But what really fascinates me is the way scientists, due to political correctness factors, refuse to break Homo sapiens down into sub-species. Like for any other species they would assign sub-species status to geographically separated populations that failed to interbreed much at the places where their ranges overlapped and who developed distinguishable morphological differences in response to local evolutionary pressures. Thus, the humans who left the ancestral homeland, interbred with Homo neandertalis , and then rapidly discovered civilization would be Homo sapiens neandertalis . And the sub-species of human who never left the ancestral homeland and didn't evolve new traits, didn't interbreed with Neanderthals and never discovered civilization would be the nominate Homo sapiens sapiens . This is so obvious that for scientists to just pretend it doesn't exist is a hilarious joke.

  • Was it Rockefeller or his top man who said," We shall not give the people an education, we shall give them an indictrination"

  • That is NOT a anatomically modern mandible. Someone really needs to get published. If that jaw is typical of those fossils then HOW it is passing as modern for pier review…

  • If melanesians are 6% "archaic" that means great great grandpa was "archaic" and momma was one quarter. Yup not so archaic.