The scientific consensus that modern humans originated in east Africa before spreading across the world may have hit a rather enormous snag because of the discovery of fossilized teeth near the German city of Mainz estimated to be 9.7 million years old.
To be clear, previous unearthed fossil evidence showed “great apes were roaming Europe millions of years ago,” according to The U.K. Independent.
The problem is, the teeth found in Germany bear a striking resemblance to the teeth of “Lucy,” a skeleton of a species closely related to humans found decades earlier in Africa that’s been estimated to be only 3.2 million years old,” as reported by Die Welt.
“Their characteristics (of the newly discovered teeth) resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger,” Herbert Lutz, the director at the Mainz Natural History Museum, which announced the discovery of the teeth this week, told local German media. “This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery.”
He wasn’t kidding.
As noted by the Independent, it’s long been believed by scientists that “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.”
This belief has been based on evidence that “hominin” species such as those of Lucy originated in Africa, but the latest find in Germany has put a giant wrench in that consensus. As far as traditional evolutionary science is concerned, if these teeth really are related to modern humans, and if they really are as old as they appear, they were found in completely the wrong place.
“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,” Mainz Mayor Michael Ebling reportedly said during a joint news conference.
But not everyone agrees.
“I think this is much ado about nothing,” University of Toronto paleoanthropologist Bence Viola wrote in an email to National Geographic, arguing that the teeth found in Germany may not even be teeth of humans’ extinct relatives.
Moreover, National Geographic confirmed that “most experts we contacted say that the molar probably belongs to a species of pliopithecoid, an extinct, primitive branch of primates that lived in Europe and Asia between roughly seven and 17 million years ago.”
Confusing, yes? But that’s science for you. While it’s one of the most important tools for allowing us to discover our past, our present and our future, it comes with many drawbacks, including a tremendous deal of unsurety. We just don’t know. And anyone who claims otherwise — including the alleged “scientific consensus” of climate change zealots — is a fraud.
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