January 3, 2011, Updated September 12, 2012

Eight ancient teeth dating back 400,000 years, found in a cave in Israel, could now rewrite the history of modern man.

Prof. Avi Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archeology made the finds while digging at the Qesem cave near Rosh Ha’Ayin, just 12 km east of Tel Aviv. Using CT scans and X-rays, the study showed that the size and shape of the teeth are very similar to those of modern man.

And if that’s the case, Gopher’s and Barkai’s recent discoveries may now overturn the theory that Homo sapiens emerged from the continent of Africa some 200,000 years ago.

“It is accepted at the moment that the earliest Homo sapiens that we know is in east Africa and is 200,000 years old, or a little less. We don’t know of anywhere else where anyone claims to have an earlier Homo sapiens,” Prof. Gopher told the AFP.

Gopher and Barkai published the results in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

The archeologists say the Qesem Cave dates back to a period between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, and say the findings indicate significant evolution in the behavior of ancient man.

In their report, Prof. Gopher and Dr. Barkai noted that the findings related to the culture of those who dwelled in the Qesem Cave – including the regular use of fire; evidence of hunting, cutting and sharing of animal meat; mining raw materials to produce flint tools – reinforce the hypothesis that this was, in fact, innovative and pioneering behavior that may correspond with the appearance of modern man.

The two Tel Aviv University professors say the Qesem Cave findings are unprecedented because of their early age. In recent years, archeological evidence and skeletons found in Spain and China also undermined the proposition that modern humans evolved in Africa.

With the anthropology community now abuzz with the Qesem Cave findings, the Tel Aviv University archeology team has returned to its excavations at the site, hoping to uncover additional finds to enhance our understanding of the evolution of mankind.

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