News / Middle East

Centuries-Old Cave Reveals Secrets of Ancient Humans

Tools and teeth found in Israel could be oldest ever discovered

Israeli archeologists are piecing together the history of the people who lived in Qesem Cave between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago.
Israeli archeologists are piecing together the history of the people who lived in Qesem Cave between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

Israeli archeologists have discovered ancient artifacts in a cave outside of Tel Aviv that could shed new light on the theory of human origins. Tel Aviv University archeologist Ran Barkai says what his team has excavated at Qesem Cave show a much more advanced people than the accepted image of our Stone Age ancestors in the Middle Paleolithic period.

These early hominids hunted for food, cooked meat over fires and crafted a sophisticated array of flint tools.

"We know that they had a set of different knives, almost like a modern butcher, that they used in the cave in order to cut the meat and eat it. And, we even have what we call Paleolithic cutlery. We have very small knives that we suggest were used while eating," Barkai says, adding that the tools are all remarkably well preserved. "They look like new, like they were made yesterday."

The archeologists also found human teeth in different strata in the cave. Barkai says scholars and dental anthropologists from Europe and the United States joined the Israelis to analyze the dental samples.

"It was clear from the comparison that the human teeth from Qesem Cave resembled most of the teeth of homo sapiens that lived in Israel much later, at an age of 100,000 years before present, at two caves, one in the Galilee and one in the Carmel."

According to a widely accepted scientific theory, modern humans emerged from Africa around 200,000 years ago. Barkai says the teeth in Qesem Cave would predate those early human migrants. "We think that we are right. It is still only eight teeth or 10 teeth. So we need more evidence. It might imply that during this phase, maybe even a new hominid was living and this is another link or piece of the chain leading to modern humans."

According to New York University paleo-dental anthropologist Shara Bailey, it may also represent another step in the evolution of man’s ancient human relatives, the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia around 200,000 years ago.

These molars were found in Qesem Cave.
These molars were found in Qesem Cave.

"My take on it is that these teeth are quite primitive. There is nothing in the morphology of these teeth that looks like homo-sapiens at all," says Bailey. "In fact it looks primitive and if anything it looks a little bit Neanderthal like."

In a recent article in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Barkai and his team suggest three theories: the Qesem teeth could belong to earlier humans or homo sapiens that developed independently from those in Africa and Europe. They could, as Shara Bailey suggests, represent an evolving Neanderthal in Southwest Asia. Or they could be from unknown extinct hominid species.

But Bailey says whether the residents of Qesem Cave were like us or not, does not make the discoveries any less important. "Any new material that we find, especially from this poorly documented time period 200,000 to 400,000 years ago, is great and necessary for our ongoing interpretation of human evolution and Neanderthal evolution."

Israeli archeologist Barkai expects Qesem Cave will continue to yield magical artifacts. He and his team from Tel Aviv University hope to find bones to add to the story of our ancient ancestors.

 

New York University paleo-dental anthropologist Shara Bailey explains what can be learned from the teeth of our ancient ancestors.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid