According to a study by Professor Nikolai Spassov and his team at the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia, the first hominid species has been traced back to the Eastern Mediterranean, challenging the long-held belief that mankind started in Africa.
Two apelike fossils with human-like teeth were discovered in Greece and Bulgaria that traced back to some 7.2 million years ago, predating the hominin found in Africa.
The findings published in the journal Plos One, claim the fossils are solid evidence that evolution started in the Mediterranean 200,000 years earlier than it did in Africa.
“This study changes the ideas related to the knowledge about the time and the place of the first steps of the humankind,” Professor Spassov told The Telegraph regarding the creature, which has been named Graecopithecus freybergi (El Graeco).
“Graecopithecus is not an ape. He is a member of the tribe of hominins and the direct ancestor of homo.
“The food of the Graecopithecus was related to the rather dry and hard savanna vegetation, unlike that of the recent great apes which are living in forests. Therefore, like humans, he has wide molars and thick enamel.
“To some extent this is a newly discovered missing link. But missing links will always exist, because evolution is an infinite chain of subsequent forms. Probably El Graeco’s face will resemble a great ape, with shorter canines.”
According to lead researcher Professor Madelaine Böhme, a computer visualisation of the internal structures of the fossils showed the roots of an upper premolar tooth were fused.
“While great apes typically have two or three separate and diverging roots, the roots of Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused – a feature that is characteristic of modern humans, early humans and several pre-humans,” she said, and added that if accepted, the theory would change the beginning of human history as we know it.
“Our findings may eventually change our ideas about the origin of humanity. I personally don’t think that the descendants of Graecopithecus die out, they may have spread to Africa later,” Ms Böhme said.
“The split of chimps and humans was a single event. Our data support the view that this split was happening in the eastern Mediterranean – not in Africa.”