Modern man may have evolved in the Middle East rather than Africa, it has been claimed, after the discovery of remains said to be more than 400,000 years old.
Israeli researchers claimed to have found eight human-like teeth in the Qesem cave near Rosh Ha’Ayin, 10 miles from Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.
Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University said the teeth were 400,000 years old, from the Middle Pleistocene Age, which would make them the earliest remains of homo sapiens yet discovered in the world.
If true it overturns the belief that homo sapiens, the direct descendant of modern man, evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago.
According to the “Out of Africa” theory, homo sapiens gradually migrated north, through the Middle East, to Europe and Asia between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago.
But in recent years discoveries in Spain and China have also questioned the theory that man originated in Africa.
The latest findings, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, said the size and shape of the teeth were very similar to those of modern man.
Prof Avi Gopher and Dr Ran Barkai of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University also found evidence of the use of fire, hunting, and the cutting and mining of raw materials to produce flint tools, which suggested a sophisticated form of society.
They said further research was needed to solidify their claim but if proven it “changes the whole picture of evolution”.