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A skull discovered in the Western Galilee proves that modern man migrated from Africa about 65 thousand years ago

This is a 55-year-old modern human skull that was discovered in Menot Cave. According to the researchers, this is "one of the most important discoveries in the study of human evolution"

A modern human skull from 55 thousand years ago that was discovered in Menot Cave in the Western Galilee. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Antiquities Authority
A modern human skull from 55 thousand years ago that was discovered in Menot Cave in the Western Galilee. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Antiquities Authority

A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Antiquities Authority, report today in the new issue of Nature magazine about "one of the most important discoveries in the study of human evolution".

This is a modern human skull, 55 years old, which was found in the Manot Cave of Dan David in the Western Galilee. This rare skull is the earliest fossilized evidence outside of Africa, that today's human populations have their origins in a wave of migration from Africa, which began about 65 years ago.

According to the researchers, the discovery sheds light on one of the most dramatic periods in human evolution: the emergence of modern man as we know him today.

The study of the skull from the Dan David Manot Cave is a joint project of Tel Aviv University, the Antiquities Authority and Ben Gurion University, under the direction of Prof. Israel Hershkovich, Dr. Omri Barzilai and Dr. Ofer Marder, and funded by the Dan David Foundation. The Israel Academy of Sciences, the Irene Levy Sela Foundation, the Leakey Foundation and the Antiquities Authority.

The origin of modern man (Homo sapiens) and his ways of spreading in the old world, is an issue that has occupied scientific research for over 150 years - since Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published.

Since the 80s of the last century, there has been considerable progress in research, following the entry of genetic research into the field, which allowed the extraction of DNA from bones, and their precise dating. The results of genetic studies of recent years, which were done in modern populations and in fossils, suggested two conclusions:

(1)- The origin of modern man is in a 200-year-old ancient population nucleus from East Africa, which migrated and arrived in our region about 100,000 years ago. This hypothesis is supported by fossil evidence.

(2)- The origin of today's modern population is in a later wave of migration, which began about 65 thousand years ago. This is the period when populations of modern man of African origin spread throughout the Old World, replacing local populations, such as Neanderthal man in the Middle East and Europe. According to this hypothesis of the geneticists, these populations constitute the ancient nucleus, from which all the modern human populations known today developed. One of the migration routes for the spread of modern man in the world passes through the Levant (Mediterranean basin), which is the only land crossing between Africa and Europe, but so far, no remains of modern man have been found dating to the time period between 65-45 years.

The research picture of the origin of modern man is now becoming clearer, following the discovery of the skull dome of modern man from Manot Cave. Manot is an active karst cave (stalactite cave), which was discovered by chance in 2008 in the Western Galilee when a bulldozer that was carrying out work on the site hit it. The cave is located 40 kilometers northeast of the well-known prehistoric sites of the Carmel Caves.

So far, five excavation seasons (2010-2014) have been held in the cave on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University, in which an impressive archaeological sequence has been documented, including the remains of several prehistoric cultures.

Manot's skull was found on a raised rock ledge in a small hall in the center of the cave. Both its inner and outer surfaces were covered with cave sediment, which was dated by the Uranium-Thorium (U-Th) method to 55 thousand years. A morphometric analysis of the skull showed that it is a skull of a modern man with similarities to modern skulls from Africa on the one hand, and to ancient skulls of modern man from Europe on the other hand.
Researchers from the Geological Institute, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Hebrew University, the University of Haifa, the University of Vienna, Harvard University, Case-Western University, the Max Planck Institute for Genetics and Evolution, Columbia University and Simon Fraser University participated in the study.

At the same time as the study of the skull, preparations are being made for the development of the cave and its preparation to receive the public. Ma'ale Yosef Regional Council, Moshav Manot and the National Fund for Israel are partners in this development.

Based on the announcement of the Antiquities Authority

7 תגובות

  1. Asaf
    Perhaps the meaning was that there was only migration, meaning that people stayed in the area for only a short period of time. Otherwise, you are of course right.

  2. for miracles,
    The controversy is whether the migration began 65,000 or 100,000 years ago. A 55 thousand year old skull therefore does not support any theory.

  3. Indeed, the article is not clear enough.
    I also didn't understand why the 'Manot' cave is called 'after Dan David'. Who even has the authority to read an ancient website by a contemporary? What justification is there for this? According to what legal procedure is this done? Does the fact that the research is funded by the Dan David Foundation have anything to do with the fact that someone decided to call it 'Dan David's Cave'?

  4. Asaf
    I understood from the article as follows: there are two theories, with the second talking about migration through Israel in the period between 65 thousand years ago and 45 thousand years ago. Therefore, this skull is confirmation of the second theory. I guess there is a lot more behind the theories than described in the article…

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