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Face of the oldest human being who ever lived is revealed after 300,000 years

Jun 20, 2024

The face of the oldest known human has been reconstructed for the first time.

The reconstruction revealed the face of a man described as “strong and serene”. 

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

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

tsaThey also proved that our ancestors outgrew the “cradle of mankind” in E Africa and spread across the continent millennia before previous evidence suggested.

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

Face of the oldest human being who ever lived is revealed after 300,000 years

“Then I proceeded with the facial approximation, which consisted of crossing several approaches, such as anatomical deformation.”

This technique involved mapping the 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 “robust and masculine” features of the skull.

Face of the oldest human being who ever lived is revealed after 300,000 years

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

“The final face is the interpolation of all this data, which generates two groups of images, one objective, with more technical elements, without hair and in greyscale,” Mr Moraes said.

Face of the oldest human being who ever lived is revealed after 300,000 years

Without hair and skin pigmentation 

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

Face of the oldest human being who ever lived is revealed after 300,000 years

With hair and skin pigmentation 

The skull itself is actually composite of various fossils, recreated into a whole that the designer said was “excellent and quite coherent, anatomically speaking”.

The Max Planck Institute, which supplied the data from the skull, said that the Jebel Irhoud remains had a “modern-looking face and teeth, and a large but more archaic-looking braincase”.

The Institute said genetic changes affecting brain connectivity, organisation and development had transformed the braincase into the skulls we all have today.

Moraes agreed and compared the Skhul V skull to an archaic Homo sapiens.

“The Jebel Irhoud skull has some characteristics compatible with Neanderthals or Heidelbergensis (extinct human relatives).

Face of the oldest human being who ever lived is revealed after 300,000 years

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

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

Jean-Jacques Hublin, Max Planck Institute, said at the time: “We used to think there was a cradle of mankind 200,000 years ago in east Africa.

“In fact what we found was that Homo sapiens spread across the entire African continent even earlier, around 300,000 years ago.”

The discovery eclipsed what had previously been the oldest Homo sapiens remains found in Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, dated to 195,000 years old.

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