For the first time ever in Israel, scientists have discovered rare teeth from approximately 40,000 years ago in an area where they shouldn’t be. The teeth date back to the time of the elusive Aurignacian culture in the Levant and strongly suggests that the group reverse-migrated from Europe to the Mideast.
Human migration began in Africa, moving through the Levant, and on to Europe. However, the new study indicates that humans also migrated in the reverse direction for several thousands of years. Dr. Rachel Sarig, who is from Tel Aviv University’s School of Dental Medicine and Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research, said that the six teeth that were discovered in the Manot Cave are among the only human fossils that have been recovered from that time period. Sarig was quoted saying, “Following the migration of European populations into this region, a new culture existed in our region for a short time – approximately 2-3,000 years – and then disappeared for no apparent reason.”
Scientists examined the six teeth that were found in a limestone cave located in the town of Manot and not only did they discover that ancient humans mostly likely reverse-migrated, but they also realized that the teeth belonged to a modern human/Neanderthal hybrid. What’s so interesting about this is that before now, fossilized remains of when modern humans and Neanderthals interbred with each other during the early Upper Paleolithic period have only been found in Europe.
“This is a very important time in the study of human evolution,” Sarig said, adding, “It can really give us insight into where Neanderthals disappeared and how they were interbred with modern humans.”
The Aurignacian culture first showed up in Europe around 43,000 years ago and their people are well known for their jewelry, musical instruments, and bone tools. And while the teeth that were found in the Manot Cave doesn’t definitively prove that ancient humans reverse-migrated from Europe, the results from the study suggests that it is very probable. The study was published in the Journal of Human Evolution and can be read in full here.
Since DNA testing couldn’t be conducted on the teeth found in the Manot Cave because of the condition they were in, scientists were able to perform a morphological study on them. Three of the six teeth were from adults, while the other three came from children, and were from at least five different people.
Sarig explained what they found when they tested four of the six teeth, “The structure, shape, and topography – surface bumps – of the teeth provided important genetic information. We were able to use the external and internal shape of the teeth found in the cave to associate them with typical hominin groups: Neanderthal and Homo sapiens.” When interviewed by The Times of Israel, Sarig said that one of the teeth had mainly modern human morphology, while another tooth was more Neanderthal “but also had some ambiguous results and showed a mixture.” She went on to say that the last two teeth were “completely mixed”. Several pictures of their findings can be seen here.