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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

By: April Carson

The controversial notion that apes, the forefathers of humans, evolved in Southeastern Europe rather than Africa is bolstered by a recent analysis of fossils recovered in Nikiti in northern Greece during the 1990s.

The study, conducted by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Science, examined fossils attributed to the species Ouranopithecus macedoniensis, which lived between 7.2 and 9 million years ago.

The 4.2-million-year-old fossils had been linked to the ancient ape Ouranopithecus, which went extinct 1.9 million years ago.

While the new study doesn't necessarily prove that the Greek fossils are our direct ancestors, it does suggest that human evolution may have started in Europe rather than Africa. This is a controversial claim, as most experts believe that the African continent is where humans first evolved.

Researchers from the University of Toronto's Department of Anthropology, however, recently studied the bones and determined that they belonged to a male mammal from a new species that was perhaps still alive.

The researchers discovered that the ancient European primate's upper and lower jaws were very similar to those of modern humans. According to the team, humanity's forefathers may have evolved in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially overturning a scientific dogma that has persisted since Darwin's day.

In the early 1870s, Darwin argued that all hominins, including both present-day and extinct humans, originated in Africa. This is still the most widely accepted thinking today.

But the new study's lead author, Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo, of Madrid's Complutense University, said the research "suggests that the African origin of our species is not as certain as we have thought until now."

The fossils were discovered in a limestone quarry near the town of Cuenca in central Spain. They date back to between 11.6 million and 11.8 million years ago, making them some of the oldest human remains found outside Africa.

Human ancestors' fossils can be found in Greece

In contrast, Darwin also claimed that hominins might have evolved in Europe, where big ape fossils had already been discovered. This hypothesis is bolstered by the new research.

"This new discovery is very important because it suggests that the African origin of our species is not as certain as we have thought until now," said study co-author Josep María Bermúdez de Castro, a paleoanthropologist at Madrid's Complutense University.

The fossils were discovered in a limestone quarry near the town of Cuenca in central Spain. They date back to between 11.6 million and 11.8 million years ago, making them some of the oldest human remains found outside Africa.

Started, on the other hand, believes that the Greek orangutan was not a hominin. He thinks that it might be a metaphor for the group from which humans evolved.

"The term 'hominin' is used to refer to all members of the human clade after the split from the chimpanzees," he said. "So, technically, the Greek orangutan is not a hominin, but it is certainly a close relative of ours."

According to a research published in Nature last year, George Washington University's Anthropological Research Facility researchers revealed that a 7.2-million-year-old ape known as Graecopithecus, which also inhabited Greece at the same time, may have been a hominin.

In this scenario, the 8- to 9-million-year-old Nikiti ape would have preceded the first hominin, Graecopithecus, and helped early humans migrate to Africa seven million years ago.

According to a New Scientist report, Begun thinks the new idea will be rejected by many experts who believe in African hominin origins, but he hopes it will at least be discussed.

"If you're an African origin person, you're not going to like this," Begun told New Scientist.

The genetic mixing of ancient humans and now-extinct ancestors of animals such as the giraffe and rhino may have occurred in Southeastern Europe, according to Benjamin. “It's generally agreed that this was the original fauna of most of what we see in Africa today,” he told New Scientist. “Why couldn't the antelopes and giraffes get into Africa 7 million years ago?”

Not all anthropologists accept Begun and his colleagues' assertions. It's possible that the Nikiti ape is completely unconnected to humans, according to New Scientist. It might have evolved similar traits separately, developing teeth to eat comparable diets or chew in a comparable way as early hominins did.

And even if the Nikiti ape is a human ancestor, that doesn't necessarily mean that all human ancestors came from Europe. The fossil record is full of gaps, and it's possible that there are other hominin fossils out there waiting to be found in Africa or elsewhere.

“There's always the possibility that there are things we haven't found yet,” Begun told New Scientist. “It's a big world out there.”

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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