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人类起源新发现:摩洛哥出土30万年前智人化石

更新时间:2017-6-8 18:21:45 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco, Altering History of Our Species
人类起源新发现:摩洛哥出土30万年前智人化石

Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported Wednesday.

科学家们周三表示,在摩洛哥发现的化石,是已知最古老的智人遗迹。

Dating back roughly 300,000 years, the bones indicate that mankind evolved earlier than had been known, experts say, and open a new window on our origins.

专家称,距今约30万年前的这些骨骸意味着人类的进化早于已知时间,并为研究我们的起源打开了一扇新的窗口。

The fossils also show that early H. sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways.

这些化石还表明,早期智人有着和我们颇为相像的脸,尽管他们的大脑与我们有着根本性的不同。

Until now, the oldest fossils of our species, found in Ethiopia, dated back just 195,000 years. The new fossils suggest our species evolved across Africa.

此前,我们物种最古老的化石是在埃塞俄比亚发现的,距今仅有19.5万年历史。新发现的化石表示,我们物种的进化轨迹遍布非洲各地。

“We did not evolve from a single cradle of mankind somewhere in East Africa,” said Phillipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany, and a co-author of two new studies on the fossils, published in the journal Nature.

“我们并非是从东非某地的唯一人类摇篮开始进化,”德国莱比锡马克斯·普朗克演化人类学研究所(Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)的古人类学家菲利普·贡兹(Phillipp Gunz)说。他是发表在《自然》(Nature)杂志上的两篇关于化石的新论文的联合作者。

Today, the closest living relatives to H. sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share a common ancestor that lived over 6 million years ago.

存活至今的物种中,与智人关系最近的是黑猩猩和倭黑猩猩,它们与我们有着生活在逾600万年前的共同祖先。

After the lineages split, our ancient relatives evolved into many different species, known as hominins. For millions of years, hominins remained very ape-like. They were short, had small brains, and could fashion only crude stone tools.

种系出现分支后,我们远古的亲属演变成了许多不同的类别,被称为古人类。古人类在数百万年间一直非常类似于猿。他们身材矮,大脑小,只能用石头制作粗糙的工具。

Until now, the oldest fossils that clearly belonged to H. sapiens were discovered in Ethiopia. In 2003, researchers working at a site called Herto discovered a skull estimated to be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old.

此前,明显属于智人的最古老化石是在俄塞俄比亚发现的。2003年,研究人员在一个名叫赫托(Herto)的遗址发现了一块据估计源于16万至15.4万年前之间的头骨。

A pair of partial skulls from another site, Omo-Kibish, dated to around 195,000 years of age, making these the oldest fossils of our species.

在另一个名叫奥默基比什(Omo-Kibish)的遗址发现的两块不完整的头骨,距今约有19.5万年,成为我们物种最古老的化石。

Findings such as these suggested that our species evolved in a small region — perhaps in Ethiopia, or nearby in East Africa. After H. sapiens arose, researchers believed, the species spread out across the continent.

此类发现一度表明,我们的物种当初是在一片很小的区域进行演化——可能是东非的俄塞俄比亚,或附近某个地方。研究人员认为,智人出现后,其足迹开始遍布非洲。

Only much later — roughly 70,000 years ago — did a small group of Africans make their way to other continents.

直到很久以后——约7万年前——一小群非洲人才前往其他大洲。

Yet paleoanthropologists were aware of mysterious hominin fossils discovered in other parts of Africa that didn’t seem to fit the narrative.

不过古人类学家注意到,在非洲其他地方发现的神秘的古人类化石,似乎与这种叙事不符。

In 1961, miners in Morocco dug up a few pieces of a skull at a site called Jebel Irhoud. Later digs revealed a few more bones, along with flint blades.

1961年,摩洛哥矿工在一个叫做杰贝尔依罗(Jebel Irhoud)的遗址挖出了几片头骨。后来又有几块骨骼以及火石刀片出土。

Using crude techniques, researchers estimated the remains to be 40,000 years old. In the 1980s, however, a paleoanthropologist named Jean-Jacques Hublin took a closer look at one jawbone.

研究人员借助简陋的技术方法估计,这些遗迹来自于4万年前。但在1980年代,一位名叫让-雅克·胡布灵(Jean-Jacques Hublin)的古人类学家对一块下颌骨进行了更仔细的研究。

The teeth bore some resemblance to those of living humans, but the shape seemed strangely primitive. “It did not make sense,” Hublin, now at the Max Planck Institute, recalled in an interview.

下颌骨上的牙齿与如今人类的牙齿有些相似,但奇怪的是,其形状看上去颇为原始。“这就说不通了,”目前任职于马克斯·普朗克研究所的胡布灵在一次采访中回忆。

Since 2004, Hublin and his colleagues have been working through layers of rocks on a desert hillside at Jebel Irhoud. They’ve found a wealth of fossils, including skull bones from five individuals who all died around the same time.

自2004年起,胡布灵及其同事一直在研究杰贝尔依罗一座荒漠山坡的岩层。他们发现了很多化石,其中包括死亡时间大体相同的五个人的头骨。

Just as important, the scientists discovered flint blades in the same layer as the skulls. The people of Jebel Irhoud most likely made them for many purposes, putting some on wooden handles to fashion spears.

同样重要的是,科学家在发现头骨的同一岩层发现了火石刀片。杰贝尔依罗人制作的火石刀片极可能有多种用途,给其中一些安上木柄就可以当矛用。

Many of the flint blades showed signs of having been burned. The people at Jebel Irhoud probably lit fires to cook food, heating discarded blades buried in the ground below. This accident of history made it possible to use the flints as clocks.

很多火石刀片都有被烧过的痕迹。杰贝尔依罗人可能会生火烹饪食物,从而让埋在下方地底下的被丢弃的刀片受到炙烤。这个历史上的偶然事件,或许带来了把这些刀片当成时钟的可能性。

Hublin and his colleagues used a method called thermoluminescence to calculate how much time had passed since the blades were burned. They estimated that the blades were roughly 300,000 years old. The skulls, which were discovered in the same rock layer, must have been the same age.

胡布灵及其同事借助一种名叫热发光的方法来计算,自从刀片被烧之后过去了多少时间。他们估计这些刀片来自约30万年前。在同一岩层被发现的头骨,肯定也来自同一时代。

The people of Jebel Irhoud were certainly sophisticated. They could make fires and craft complex weapons, such as wooden handled spears, needed to kill gazelle and other animals that grazed the savanna that covered the Sahara 300,000 years ago.

杰贝尔依罗人显然已经颇为先进。他们可以生火并制作复杂的工具,比如带木柄的矛,用来杀死在30万年前覆盖撒哈拉地区的热带草原上觅食的羚羊以及其他动物。

The flint is interesting for another reason: Researchers traced its origin to another site about 20 miles south of Jebel Irhoud. Early H. sapiens, then, knew how to search out and to use resources spread over long distances.

火石令人感兴趣的另一个原因是:研究者在杰贝尔依罗以南约20英里处的另一个地方找到了其源头。这表明早期智人知道如何搜寻和利用远处的资源。

Similar flint blades of about the same age have been found at other sites across Africa, and scientists have long wondered who made them. The fossils at Jebel Irhoud raise the possibility that they were made by early H. sapiens.

在非洲各地的其他地点发现了来自大约同一时代的类似火石刀片,科学家长期以来一直想弄清是谁制作了它们。杰贝尔依罗的化石揭示了其制作者为早期智人的可能性。

And if that’s true, Gunz and his colleagues argue, then our species may have been evolving as a network of groups spread across the continent.

贡兹及其同事说,倘若果真如此,那么我们物种或许是由遍布非洲大陆的一系列群体进化而来。

John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who was not involved in the new study, said that it was a plausible idea, but that recent discoveries of fossils from the same era raise the possibility that they were used by other hominins. The only way to resolve the question will be to find more hominin fossils from the time when our species emerged.

与该项新研究无关的威斯康星大学(University of Wisconsin)古人类学家约翰·霍克斯(John Hawks)说,这是一个合理的想法,但最近发现的来自同一时代的化石,揭示了其使用者是其他古人类的可能性。解答这个问题的唯一办法是:找到来自我们物种出现之时的更多古人类化石。

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