Scientists in Germany have made a discovery that is being hailed as capable of changing the history of human evolution, as we know it.
A team of paleontologists has discovered 9.7 million-year-old fossilized teeth while sifting through gravel and sand in an old, dried-up Rhine river bed near the town of Eppelsheim, Germany.
Though the teeth resembled the teeth belonging to “Lucy,” a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of an extinct primate related to humans and found in Ethiopia, they do not resemble those of any other species previously discovered in Europe and Asia.
The discovery of Lucy in 1974 had changed the timeline of human evolution, formed till that time.
According to a report by BBC, it showed us the link between humans and early primates. The shape and positioning of her pelvis reflected a fully upright gait. Lucy’s knee and ankle were also preserved and seem to reflect bipedal walking.
According to the report, the discovery of Lucy strengthened the idea that walking was one of the key selective pressures that drove human evolution forward. The first “Hominins” — species close to humans — did not need bigger brains to take defining steps away from apes.
The most interesting thing about the find in Germany is that the teeth do not resemble those of any other species previously discovered in both Europe and Asia.
“I don’t want to over-dramatize it, but I would hypothesize that we shall have to start rewriting the history of mankind after today,” the mayor of Mainz, Michael Ebling, was quoted as saying in a report by the Independent .
Though the discovery was made in 2016, the team was so confused by the teeth that they waited for more evidence for a year before publishing their findings, the report added.
According to Herbert Lutz, director at the Mainz Natural History Museum and head of the research team, “They are clearly ape teeth. Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim.”
This is an important find because the “hominins” were not found before in Europe. Their existence was widely known but no findings had been reported before.
“This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery,” Lutz added in the report.
With the findings being new, further research will be key to unraveling important pieces of information regarding human evolution, and will help us understand the environment and surroundings the early humans lived in. It will also help us establish links to other species of primates that existed, how they evolved or became extinct.
With the first paper on the research having just been published in journal vorZEITEN, the “real work” to unlock the mystery has just begun, Dr Lutz said.
The current model of human evolution says that Homo Sapiens or modern humans evolved out of east Africa somewhere between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, before dispersing around the world as recently as 70,000 years ago. Before us, the world had several upright walking primate and hominins that were closely related to us.
The teeth will be displayed to the public from the end of October at a state exhibition, before heading to Mainz’s Natural History Museum, said the report.