Scholars generally agree that anatomically modern humans first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago. But do human fossils go back that far?
What is the Oldest Human Fossil?
In truth, the fossil record doesn’t exact support the so-called “Out of Africa” theory. In fact, its quite skimpy in this regard. Complicating this is the fact that many older human fossils show traits from both humans as well as more primitive members of the Homo genus. This could mean the earliest Homo Sapiens possessed a wide variety of physical traits. Or it could mean the seemingly human fossils in question belong to some other hominid altogether. With that said, here’s more from the Smithsonian on the earliest known human fossil (which predates the Skhul human fossil shown above by about 100,000 years).
Omo I and II (195,000 years ago): In 1967, a team led by Richard Leakey discovered possible Homo sapiens fossils in the Kibish Formation near the Omo River in southern Ethiopia. Originally the fossils, Omo I (a partial skull and skeleton) and Omo II (a partial skull), were thought to be 130,000 years old, but a dating reanalysis in 2005 revealed they were much older—195,000 years old, making them the oldest fossils assigned to Homo sapiens. Over the last 45 years, the species status of the fossils has been debated. Researchers largely agree Omo I was a modern human; it had the human hallmarks of a flat face, fully formed chin, high forehead and globular braincase. They are less certain about Omo II, which was more primitive with its thicker, more “rugged” cranial bones and sloped forehead. While some paleoanthropologists say Omo II is too archaic to be one of us, others suggest it’s evidence of the great physical diversity of early modern humans…