You are on page 1of 17

Login

Register
Subscribe
Rewards
Search
Video

Home
News
Sport
Business
Science
Telegraph
Science

Europe was the birthplace of mankind, not


Africa, scientists find

162 Comments

An artist's reconstruction of Graecopithecus


freybergi, left, with the jawbone and tooth found in Bulgaria and Greece Credit: University of
Toronto
Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
22 May 2017 7:00pm
The history of human evolution has been rewritten after scientists discovered that Europe was the
birthplace of mankind, not Africa.
Currently, most experts believe that our human lineage split from apes around seven million years
ago in central Africa, where hominids remained for the next five million years before venturing
further afield.
But two fossils of an ape-like creature which had human-like teeth have been found in Bulgaria and
Greece, dating to 7.2 million years ago.
Paid content

Do This Every Time You Turn On Your Computer


Web Life Advice

How Older Men Tighten Their Skin With Just $5


dollars The Modern Man Today
Recommended by
Object 1

The discovery of the creature, named Graecopithecus freybergi, and nicknameded El Graeco' by
scientists, proves our ancestors were already starting to evolve in Europe 200,000 years before the
earliest African hominid.
An international team of researchers say the findings entirely change the beginning of
human history and place the last common ancestor of both chimpanzees and humans - the so-called
Missing Link - in the Mediterranean region.
To some extent this is a newly discovered missing linkProfessor Nikolai Spassov, Bulgarian
Academy of Sciences
At that time climate change had turned Eastern Europe into an open savannah which forced apes to
find new food sources, sparking a shift towards bipedalism, the researchers believe.
This study changes the ideas related to the knowledge about the time and the place of the first steps
of the humankind, said Professor Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Graecopithecus is not an ape. He is a member of the tribe of hominins and the direct ancestor of
homo.
The food of the Graecopithecus was related to the rather dry and hard savannah vegetation, unlike
that of the recent great apes which are leaving in forests. Therefore, like humans, he has wide
molars and thick enamel.

The species could be the first hominid ever to exist Credit: University of Toronto
"To some extent this is a newly discovered missing link. But missing links will always exist ,
because evolution is infinite chain of subsequent forms. Probably El Graeco's face will resemble a
great ape, with shorter canines."
An artist's impression of Graecopithecus Credit: National Museum of Natural History - Sofia,
Assen Ignatov
The team analysed the two known specimens of Graecopithecus freybergi: a lower jaw from Greece
and an upper premolar tooth from Bulgaria.
Using computer tomography, they were able to visualise the internal structures of the fossils and
show that the roots of premolars are widely fused.
"While great apes typically have two or three separate and diverging roots, the roots of
Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused - a feature that is characteristic of modern humans,
early humans and several pre-humans,", said lead researcher Professor Madelaine Bhme of the
University of Tbingen.
The lower jaw, has additional dental root features, suggesting that the species was a hominid.
The tooth of Graecopithecus Credit: University of Tubingen
The species was also found to be several hundred thousand years older than the oldest African
hominid, Sahelanthropus tchadensis which was found in Chad.
"We were surprised by our results, as pre-humans were previously known only from sub-Saharan
Africa," said doctoral student Jochen Fuss, a Tbingen PhD student who conducted this part of the
study.
Professor David Begun, a University of Toronto paleoanthropologist and co-author of this study,
added: "This dating allows us to move the human-chimpanzee split into the Mediterranean area."
During the period the Mediterranean Sea went through frequent periods of drying up completely,
forming a land bridge between Europe and Africa and allowing apes and early hominids to pass
between the continents.

The jawbone of Graecopithecus Credit: University of Tubingen


The team believe that evolution of hominids may have been driven by dramatic environmental
changes which sparked the formation of the North African Sahara more than seven million years
ago and pushed species further North.
They found large amounts of Saharan sand in layers dating from the period, suggesting that it lay
much further North than today.
Professor Bhme added: "Our findings may eventually change our ideas about the origin of
humanity. I personally don't think that the descendants of Graecopithecus die out, they may have
spread to Africa later. The split of chimps and humans was a single event. Our data support the view
that this split was happening in the eastern Mediterranean - not in Africa.
"If accepted, this theory will indeed alter the very beginning of human history."
However some experts were more skeptical about the findings.
Retired anthropologist and author Dr Peter Andrews, formerly at the Natural History Museum in
London, said: "It is possible that the human lineage originated in Europe, but very substantial fossil
evidence places the origin in Africa, including several partial skeletons and skulls.
"I would be hesitant about using a single character from an isolated fossil to set against the evidence
from Africa."
The new research was published in the journal PLOS One.

Share this article



162 Comments

Follow Telegraph Science & Tech


Follow on Facebook
Follow on Twitter
Follow on Instagram
Follow on Pinterest
162 Comments
If you would like to add a comment, please register or log in
Register Log in
Please review our commenting policy

Object 2

Recommended
Melania Trump slaps away Donald Trump's hand upon arriving in Israel 22 May 2017
Sex is the latest lifestyle accessory but is anyone actually doing it? 22 May 2017
Mother's heartbreaking plea to find missing daughter leaves TV presenter Susanna Reid in
tears 23 May 2017
Patients who can't speak English are given double the appointment time, GPs admit 19 May
2017
New NHS test could lead to abortions of 'undesirable' babies, warn experts 22 May 2017
Object 3

Related Topics
Chad
Africa
Europe
Fossils
Bulgaria
History
Human evolution
Chimpanzees
Humans
Evolution
Apes
Climate change
Greece

Paid content

Snoring Victim: End Your Restless Nights With This Simple Tip Stop Snoring Today

Century Old Ship Found In Swamp, But When They Look Inside... LifeDaily

This invention going wild on the internet. The effect? Genius ECOCUT pro

Man Found In Vietnam Jungle After 4 Decades Stuns Police LifeDaily

US Task Force Changes Guidelines for Prostate Cancer Screening 360dx.com

Take A Peek At This Insane Super Yacht Mansion Global

Frank Zappas Estate, Complete With Recording Studio and Rooftop Tennis, Sells for
$5.25 Mansion Global

Medieval Pilgrim Excavated in UK Carried Leprosy Strain That Still Circulates


GenomeWeb

Ceres Nanosciences Closes on $3M in Series A Funding 360dx.com


Recommended by

Science latest
1. 22 May 2017, 8:00pm

Space mice: first animals born from sperm stored on


International Space Station for 9 months
2. 22 May 2017, 8:00pm

Attractive scientists viewed as less competent by public


3. 22 May 2017, 1:04am

New NHS test could lead to abortions of 'undesirable' babies,


warn experts
4. 22 May 2017, 12:18am

Nasa plans emergency spacewalk on International Space


Station
5. 21 May 2017, 6:00am

How emojis can save your relationship - and help men


understand what women mean
6. 21 May 2017, 12:01am
The vanishing animals that future generations will never see
7. 20 May 2017, 12:01am

First hay fever map of Britain could help staycationers pick an


asthma-free holiday
8. 19 May 2017, 4:17pm

Patients who can't speak English are given double the


appointment time, GPs admit
9. 19 May 2017, 4:10pm

Lonely white puffin finally finds a mate to share burrow


10.00:50

19 May 2017, 11:31am

'World's best-preserved' dinosaur fossil unveiled in Canada


11.19 May 2017, 12:01am

Could Zika virus hold the key to fighting brain tumours?


12.19 May 2017, 12:01am

Future of revenge porn will see spurned exes create 3D sex


avatars of ex-lovers, warn experts
13.18 May 2017, 8:00pm

Prof proves 100-year-old medical test cures infertility after


mum tells him: 'That's how you were born!'
14.18 May 2017, 6:45pm

Prince of Wales: plastic in worlds oceans is a growing human


disaster
15.18 May 2017, 6:01am
Half a pint less beer daily can slash obesity risk by a fifth
16.18 May 2017, 12:01am

Asian beetle could wipe out Britain's ash trees...and is heading


our way
17.17 May 2017, 7:50pm

Hottest chilli pepper in the world accidentally created by


Welsh farmer
18.17 May 2017, 6:00pm

Is this the end of blood donation?Scientists close to unlimited


supply from stem cells
19.17 May 2017, 5:47pm

First evidence of the multiverse? Scientists think Cold Spot in


space could be colliding universes
20.17 May 2017, 5:09pm

What is the Antikythera Mechanism? How was this ancient


'computer' discovered?
21.17 May 2017, 1:18pm

Beauty sleep is real - too little sleep leaves you less attractive,
study finds
Contact us
Rewards
Archive
Reader Prints
Branded Content
Syndication
Guidelines
Privacy
Terms and Conditions
Leave your feedback
Telegraph Media Group Limited 2017

Object4