First Homo Sapiens in Europe - Apidima

Creative Common images from Il Fatto Storico

These fossils shake things up. Two fragments of human skull crania were found in Apidima Cave in Southern Greece during the late 1970s, but radiocarbon dating failed and typology was difficult with the partial survival. They were found close together, lodged down a crevice.

The authors of the report applied U-series radiometric method to date Apidima 2 to more than 170,000 bp  and propose that it has Neanderthal features.

Apidima 1 (images above), they have dated using the same method to more than 210,000 years ago, and have assigned to it a morphology of mixed primitive and modern features.  This surprised the researchers as it had been wrongly assumed that the two fragments were found so close to each other (centimetres) that they shared a single context and time.

Apidima 1 described as having some modern features, is an extraordinary claim, as is the title of the Nature publication. It suggests arrival of anatomically modern humans (Homo Sapiens)  into SE Europe at an extraordinary early date.

The emergence of fossils that we regard as anatomically modern has shifted further back in time. I recall when the Cromagnon fossils of Europe, dated then to circa 40,000 years ago were regarded as the oldest in the world. But finds from both out of Levant and Africa began to challenge this. Eventually, Kibishish-Omo and Herta in Ethiopia were hailed as the oldest fossil finds of modern Homo sapiens. They were dated to circa 195,000 years bp. A recent research publication has revised the dating of these proximal deposits of the finds to 233 ± 22 kyr. Yes, 220,000 years ago:

Age of the oldest known Homo sapiens from eastern Africa. Nature updated 2022. Vidal, Lane, Asrat etal

It doesn't end there.

The fossils designated to be Homo sapiens found at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, have been dated 315,000 ybp.

The age of the hominin fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and the origins of the Middle Stone Age. Nature 2017. Richter, Grün, Joannes-Boyau etal.

In conclusion it would appear likely, that the sort of modern features associated with Homo sapiens emerged piece by piece, much earlier than could be credibly imagined by anthropologists back in the 1960s. Modern features developed gradually from as far back as the Middle Palaeolithic. That there is more and more evidence of earlier hominins (of Homo habilis type) exiting from Africa at vastly earlier dates, would support that these early modern humans could have existed and made their way out of Africa towards Apidima.