July 14, 2024

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The face of the oldest human being revealed after 300 thousand years

The face of the oldest human being revealed after 300 thousand years
The face of our oldest human ancestor has been recreated (Photo: Cicero Moraes/Pen News)

If you’ve ever wondered what your ancestors looked like 300,000 years ago, look no further.

The face of the oldest known human has been reconstructed for the first time, revealing a man described as “strong and calm”.

It was created by Brazilian graphics expert Cicero Moraes, who used a 3D scan of a skull to bring our relative back to life.

The fossils came from the remains of Jebel Irhoud, named after the site where it was found in Morocco, and proved that humans, or Homo sapiens, evolved 100,000 years earlier than thought.

They also prove that our ancestors went beyond the “cradle of humanity” in East Africa and spread across the continent thousands of years before previous evidence suggested this.

Explaining the process, Mr. Moraes said: “First, I scanned the skull in 3D, using data provided by researchers at the Max Planck Institute.

Facial reconstruction
Say hello to your oldest known ancestor (Photo: Cicero Moraes/Pen News)
The composite skull from Jebel Irhud
The composite skull from Jebel Irhud (Photo: Philip Jones/Ben News)

“Then I proceeded to approximate the face, which consists of crossing several methods, such as anatomical deformation.”

This technique involved drawing a 3D skull diagram onto a ‘donor’ skull prototype, which was based on an adult male with a low body mass index.

Mr Moraes said he chose to give the skull a male face based on the “strong and masculine” features of the skull.

Black and white entertainment
The man is described as “strong and calm” (Photo: Cicero Moraes/Pen News)

Additional data from modern humans have been used to predict soft tissue thickness, and the likely projection of the nose and other facial structures.

“The final aspect is to interpolate all this data, creating two sets of images, one target, with more technical elements, without hair and in greyscale,” Mr. Moraes said.

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“The other is artistic, with pigmentation of the skin and hair.”

The skull itself is actually a composite of different fossils, reconstructed into a complete form, and the designer said it is “excellent and completely coherent, anatomically speaking.”

Set of skull shapes
Human skulls have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years (Photo: Cicero Moraes/Pen News)

The Max Planck Institute, which provided the data from the skull, said the Jebel Irhud remains had a “modern-looking face and teeth, and a large but ancient-looking skull.”

The institute said that genetic changes that affect brain connectivity, organization and development transformed the brain into the skulls we all have today.

Moraes agreed, and compared the Skhul V skull to that of ancient Homo sapiens.

“The Mount Ergud skull has some characteristics consistent with a Neanderthal or Heidelbergian skull [extinct human relatives].

“It is very interesting to observe the differences and correspondences between the structures of these skulls and faces over thousands of years.”

Cicero Moraes in action
Cicero Moraes at work (Photo: Cicero Moraes/Pen News)

Fossils from the Jebel Irhoud site were initially discovered in the 1960s and were estimated to be about 40,000 years old, before scientists revisited the site and new techniques revealed the bones to be about 300,000 years old.

“We thought there was a cradle of humanity 200,000 years ago in East Africa,” Jean-Jacques Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute, said at the time.

“In fact what we found is that Homo sapiens spread across the entire African continent even before that, about 300,000 years ago.”

This discovery surpasses what were previously considered the oldest Homo sapiens remains found at Omo Kebesh in Ethiopia, which date back 195,000 years.

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