Are Modern Humans Really Older Than We Thought?

You and I might be older than we thought. Not us personally— us as in Homo sapiens,
or anatomically modern humans. That’s a term that refers to someone whose bone structure falls within the range of humans alive today. Someone who wouldn’t look too out of place
if you just saw them walking down the street. For a long time, fossil evidence for anatomically
modern humans went back less than two hundred thousand years. But an international team of researchers,
publishing this month in the journal Nature, have found what they’re calling early Homo sapiens fossils that are around three hundred thousand years old, at a site called Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. This research has been making headlines as
a scientific breakthrough, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that. What we can say for sure is that these papers are more evidence in an ongoing anthropological puzzle, and we should keep revising our ideas of exactly
when, where, and how we first evolved. We know anatomically modern humans arose from
archaic humans like Homo erectus in Africa. And the 200,000 year figure has been pretty
persistent, but there have been hints that Homo sapiens is actually older than that. For one thing, a DNA study published last
year suggests ancestral humans might have diverged genetically from ancestral Neanderthals
more than 500,000 years ago. We’ve also found fossils older than 200,000
years that look like Homo sapiens, but they were too fragmentary to be sure. Before these recent papers, the fossils from
Jebel Irhoud didn’t seem like important evidence in this age debate. The site has yielded hominin fossils since
1960, but sloppy or inaccurate dating led researchers to think they were
as young as 40,000 years. One estimate based on radioactive uranium
and a technique called electron spin resonance put them at around 160,000 years old. Even that is kinda boring if you’re looking for human origins, so the site was consistently overlooked. But the current find involves new excavations
and a dating technique that turned the clock back past 300,000 years. The excavations found new hominin fossils
near flint tools, along with charcoal and burned mammal bones, which suggests they were probably using fire. Some of the tools were cracked as if they
had been heated, and that opened them up to a dating technique
known as thermoluminescence. Crystals of certain common minerals, like
flint, which is a form of quartz, tend to trap electrons over time. Those electrons come from a source like sunlight or the natural radioactive decay of elements in the ground. When those crystals get heated up, the electrons
get enough energy to escape. The crystals zero out, and start building
up electrons again. When some early Homo sapiens let their tools
get toasty, they reset the electron content of the quartz crystals. And because electrons build up at a steady
rate, it creates an electron clock. The number of electrons is proportional to
how long it’s been since the crystals were last heated. The researchers then heated the tools again, which
forced the electrons out in the form of weak light. By measuring that light, they could tell how long it had been since those tools got left in the flames, and then use that to estimate the age of the fossils
found in nearby rock. The number they came up with was around 315,000
years, plus or minus a few. And then they double-checked by doing some more
radioactive uranium and electron spin resonance dating on a fossilized tooth, which gave an estimate of 286,000 years. So the fossil ages are pretty solid, but researchers
don’t entirely agree about how much they shake up the picture of when and where
anatomically modern humans emerged. Modern humans from the last 130,000 years
have relatively small faces and globe-shaped braincases, which is the back part of your skull. The Jebel Irhoud hominins shared the small faces, but their braincases were more elongated than
what you would see in people today. Earlier thinking had modern humans arising
in a rapid evolutionary event 200,000 years ago, taking place somewhere in East Africa, in
which our faces and braincases both changed from ancestral hominins. This research isn’t the first to question
that thinking, but the mix of archaic and modern traits in
these fossils might mean a couple of things. For one, the sudden emergence of anatomically
modern humans is probably thanks to the fossil record, not
a real event. The Jebel Irhoud fossils suggest a transitional
form, in which humans evolved small faces early or even kept them from an archaic ancestor,
and didn’t get the modern braincase until later. So even though it’s flashy and exciting
to claim that these are the earliest Homo sapiens, it isn’t necessarily a clear-cut label. The paper authors say that these fossils are early
Homo sapiens, and most scientists seem to agree that these
are our direct ancestors, at the very least. Whether you consider them recent humans or not, this discovery also suggests that hominins
like the Irhoud folks were living all over Africa. The study authors point to 260,000 year old
fragmentary remains from South Africa, which their research confirms could plausibly
be Homo sapiens. South Africa isn’t exactly an afternoon stroll
from Morocco, and neither are terribly close to a hypothetical
East African origin for modern humans. The researchers say all this evidence points
to a pan-African view of human evolution, with no one site being the unique cradle of
humanity. As is often the case in biology, it was more
of a mess. A mess that’s elegant in its complexity,
because it all fits together if you can find all the evidence, which we are still doing. And still reporting on, here on SciShow News! If you like this weekly update about what’s happening in the realms of science, you should check out news on SciShow Space, too. And don’t forget to go to
and subscribe.

100 thoughts on “Are Modern Humans Really Older Than We Thought?

  1. Who the crap are the 59 people who would dislike this at the time I am posting this? How could anyone dislike this?

  2. No, the earth and life in general are a lot younger than we think. I mean not too long ago they pulled up the femur bone of a dinosaur with a flint arrow head lodged in it as well as many different leg bones of dinosaurs found with idents from a sword found in the bone. There was no evolution nor big bang. The earth came to be just as is stated in the book of genesis.

  3. Let's face it. At the borders of science, we tend to go for the simpler explainations of things. However when the science is finally in, it shows to be much more complex than first though. When will we stop doing this. We do it over and over and over again in every field of science. In Planetology, regarding Jupiter, there were two schools of thought, that it was smooth inside and the other that it was lumpy inside. After the JUNO mission, it was provided to be both but way more complex than anyone thought. Again and again we do this. Human habits, has a habit of not fixing it's habits.

  4. I would like to see more of the bones than just the skull before coming to any conclusions, because to me, that skull does not look at all homo sapien; the protruding jaw, the angle of the mandible, the sloping forehead, the thick protruding brow ridge, let alone the brain case as you mentioned… looks a lot more like homo neanderthalensis or homo erectus to me

  5. Can you talk about the human remains found in Greece that were older than the African ones? That would be interesting

  6. hey scishow. one of my friends doesnt believe in evolution. all i could say to argue against him was, darwin, origin of species. i havent read it. could you please you do a video on it?

  7. Haha it was said by science it self everyone originally came from Africa and migrated so wtf is there racism???? Like wtf

  8. If hominins were living all over Africa in varied environments and climates, why are we so hooked on the idea that they all stayed in Africa? At the least this says to me that 20,000 years is plenty of time to spread over the whole continent of Africa. But why not farther? what physical barriers would keep hominins from the levant, anatolia, and the middle east? It seems easy.

  9. where does a guy get access to all of the data from the excavations? i don't like taking other people's words for stuff. "trust us, we know what we're doing," is usually said by a person hiding stuff.

  10. Are you going to do a video on Graecopithicus? It's actual age was discovered shortly before these and it also paints an interesting picture regarding human origins. 7.2 million year pre-human found in Europe. 200,000 years older than the oldest hominid found in Africa

  11. Hey, "Jebel" or "Jabal" or "Jebal" or however you wanna spell it, means "Mountain" in Arabic, so it's Irhoud Mountain 🙂

    Yours truly,
    An Arab fan

  12. Listened to a talk once, where a guy researched stone tools that are 20 million years old, although the earliest humans used tools was 2 million years ago. Since his findings conflicted with the accepted evolution theory and he didn't have a degree in the field he is mostly ignored by academia …

  13. the really interesting thing with the older dating is that the Homo Sapiens most likely did not just live together with Neanderthalers, as previously thought, but also with other human 'species'.

  14. humanity is millions of years old, greater civilisations have lived and and been extinguished in the past with technologies greater then ours. just cos we have no knowledge of them does no mean they did not exist. we will be destroyed in the future and others will take our place and create greater civilisations and look back on us as primative.

  15. very good video!
    My anthropology and paleoanthropology professor contributed to this discovery by the analisys of the teeth of Jebel Irhoud and he presented the results last week during our "laboratory's friday meeting"!

  16. we built paleoanthropology on east África, mostly due to political issues. west africa surely can bring better images

  17. What I take away from this is that our techniques for dating ancient remains are very poor and inaccurate.

  18. I've wondered, If we dig up all the old bones on earth and put them in a few storage locations around the world and something devastating happens to humanity, then future humans may have nothing useful to accurately figure out where and when things existed.

  19. Have you ever started watching a 5 minute ad that starts at the beginning of the video, and then forgot about the actual video, and then when the actual video plays been like "oh yeah . . . this"

  20. East Africa is still thought to be where the H.Sapiens line diverged from H.Neanderthalis some 450,000 BP by latest estimate.

  21. Fascinating how fast people discovered even older person, shortly after finding that the oldest human that was in Europe. Suspiciously so.

  22. The rocks could also have been baked by wildfires and a hundred thousand years later somebody made tools out of them.

  23. Seems a bit obvious this would happen. Evolution is gradual. Its not like like modern humans just popped up exactly 200,000 years ago.

  24. I love it when Hank can barely contain his enthusiasm. He looked like he was about to start jumping when he was talking about how they dated the remains. That enthusiasm is contagious.

    Either that, or someone behind the camera was trying to make him lose it during filming.

  25. Modern humans have been on this earth for more than 200000 years yets we cannot trace our history to more than 10,000 years, it is stranger than fiction

  26. Of course its not going to be clear cut. Evolution is very gradual.
    We will probably never find a definitive answer to this.

  27. "Let's all agree to – know that THEY DON'T REALLY KNOW" – and "THEY" have all sorts of "predetermined varibles" – "THEY ALREADY SUPPORTED" and "THAT" throws all kinds of facts – outside their "AGREED THEORIES" – ………. …. …
    .. Sooooo, "THEY" must be pretty STRESSED OUT – cause "THEY" are Docs/PhD' s and "THEY" hate lookin' like they didn't follow the rules of research (no pre-determined goals) –

    LET THE FACTS – TELL THE STORY – and it's OK – to have a Soul and Believe in your Source/God –
    "It's called: FACTS and FREEDOMS"

    You CAN be a Scientist AND have a spiritual belief system – Ask a Physicist! ⚛ ♱ ☮

  28. we probably are older than we have evidence for, because we are evolved for beach living. that's why we only have hair on the tops of our heads and walk upright and have larger brains that can understand waves and tides etc.. and there is nowhere on earth that destroys literally everything in its path, like waves. so any tools or bones we left behind were turned to beach sands within years.

  29. This is not "new" news they have been digging there for 10 years. And these fossils were found a long time ago. The big problem has been that orthodox scientist wouldn't accept the fact that they were 100,000 older than the previous ones. Because there were too many PhDs, and political agenda fighting it. No rational person should have accepted the previous date. This was found in Morocco and there was a whole political agenda that wants to claim the Horn of Africa as the source of humans (OOA) out of Africa/Africa Replacement theory. This find blows a big huge hole in that theory. Too many people wedded to it, and too many careers built on it, and the foundations of whole branches of science dependant on it.

    For the last century – scientist have dismissed/denounced as forgeries or hoaxes/ and destroy fossils that didn't fit their paradigm.

    for example : The first significant African discovery related to human origins occurred in 1913 when Professor Hans Reck, of Berlin University, found a human skeleton in the upper part of Bed II at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Modern dating methods give a late Early Pleistocene date of around 1.15 million years for this site. Reck said, "The bed in which the human remains were found….showed no sign of disturbance."

    A anatomically modern human skull was found in 1880 at Castenedolo, Italy. The stratum from which it was taken is assigned to the Astian stage of the Pliocene. According to modern authorities (Harland et al, 1982, p. 110), the Astian belongs to the Middle Pliocene, which would give the skull an age of 3-4 million years.

    Any evidence that didn't fit the 200,000 years ago dogma of the scientists in the field was suppressed. They suppressed this find for ten years. it may be older than you thought but it is still not the oldest that exists.

  30. Isn't this the same line of group think that says selective breeding of fish will end up creating, say, a mountain lion? Evolution is a piss poor theory.

  31. It's interesting that flint blades seem actually to have been "cooked" by later humans to improve its performance as a weapon…

  32. A human within a consecutive water deposited sediment layer would be someone that lived before the global flood, someone that died in the global flood.

  33. 3:40 There seems to be quite a difference between those two skulls. Enough that I wouldn't classify the Moroccan one as an anotomically modern human.

  34. The 500,000 divergence only means that our lineages split. It doesn’t indicate speciation. Both Neanderthals and Heidelbergensis and possibly erectus. It’s hard because you can’t point to a fossil and say “hey that’s the first sapien”.

  35. We are only the latest iteration of civilized homo Sapiens.
    We've been kicked back to sticks, rocks and caves more than once.

  36. I really wish he'd said "Homo heidelbergensis" instead of "Homo erectus" when discussing archaic humans.  It's true that H. erectus is being reevaluated as being a possible ancestor to modern humans (and maybe even the same species as H. ergaster, making it also the ancestor of H. heidelbergensis), but H. heidelbergensis is still the generally-accepted ancestor of H. sapiens, and those taking notes from this video might be misled.

  37. What we’ve literally being saying for decades, Africa is the cradle of humanity. And Europeans have committed a great sin against their own creator

  38. It appears that homoerectus lasted at least two million years. It looks like they were probably more successful than we are likely to be, given our penchant for mass violence and for poisoning our surroundings.

  39. It appears to be true that there were physically modern humans before mentally modern humans. There appears to have been a cognitive revolution that started about seventy thousand years ago which created the thinking of the human animal in a very big way. This evolutionary event appears to have not happened in Neanderthals.

    The use of stone tools is much older than modern humans, yet those tools remains the same without significant change for a very, very long time. The changes began to appear about seventy five thousand years ago.

    The modern human body appears to have been around longer than we thought but it may well be that the modern human mind is only about seventy thousand years old.

  40. Modern humans should consider themselves lucky if they don't have to live on that Hell Hole any more. I mean, look at the modern history. General Butt Ass Naked, etc. Cannibalism. War. Literally the worlds butt hole to live.

  41. There weren't 'archaic' humans ancestors before us. They were perfectly formed to fit their environment for millions of years.

  42. I've got an interesting question what if a human, mammal, reptile or even a dinosaur that died at lets say just 500k yrs mark for instance, what if they died of radiation specifically how would that effect carbon dating if at all? throw in any other time you want aswell

  43. If you are interested in the origins of H. Sapiens (and all other members of the genus), you may enjoy watching a new theory’s short introductory video presentation @ (8 min. or you can just read the pinned comment), proposing as the birthplace/natural environment of our species a permanent warm coastal fog most likely existing for 2.6 million years at the periphery of the Irish Sea Glacier (during late Pleistocene).
    Alternatively, you can google “Pleistocene permanent warm coastal fog”, or if you can spare two hours, please visit

  44. Hank I have another idea to throw out there. The average age must have been close to about 30 back then. Even in just the span of one of those lifetimes our earliest ancestors could've spread elsewhere even if just a handful .every family or tribe has the wandering offspring and it's possible our earliest ancestors could've traveled to Africa.i got that idea because those bones were excavated in Morocco a coastline which right above is France who's genome just so happens to not be related to anyone else's strangely… Hmm lol ..i would love to hear your thoughts and possible corrections on this thought experiment 🖖

  45. Looking at the comments past the few top rated is a depressing fall down the rabbit hole into racist conspiracy theories and pseudoscience peppered with a few actually decent quips.

  46. The Jebel Irhoud Homo sapiens braincases which appear to be more elongated than globe-shaped are "composite fossils" meaning these scientists are acknowledging they assembled pieces from different individuals to create a more complete skull. Since when is this an acceptable practice with any kind of fossil? Wasn't it a big controversy when that Archeoraptor fossil published by NatGeo turned out to be a composite fossil? Doesn't this undermine the significance of any apparent distinguishing characteristics?

  47. They found a a new human with a a DNA that goes back to 300,000 years past the 200,000 your mark so three hundred thousand years is the standard belief at the moment

  48. When we discovered that our DNA can change as we are alive, due to trauma or the environment or other factors, it is pretty clear that evolution is how we got here. Are used to have a little reservation until I learned about this

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