Nesher Ramla Homo found in Israel and likely pre-dates modern humans by 200,000 years.
Archaeologists have unearthed a new type of prehistoric human that emerged 400,000 years ago and which is thought to have likely interbred with Homo sapiens. Skull and jaw fragments of a 'Nesher Ramla' Homo were found at an open-air prehistoric site of the same name at a cement plant near the city of Ramla, Israel.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have dated the remains to around 140,000 - 120,000 years ago.
Nesher Ramla Homo's big teeth, skull structure and absent chin make its morphology markedly different to that of modern humans, analysis has revealed. But it does have features in common with Neanderthals - specifically its teeth and jaw - while its skull resembles that of other archaic Homo specimens.
Thus, the find may answer a big puzzle in human evolution - how Neanderthals came to have Homo sapiens genes long before the two groups met in Europe. The researchers argue the Nesher Ramla people may be the previously-hypothesised 'missing' population that mated with modern humans 200,000 years ago.
In fact, they likely predated modern humans in the Levant by 200,000 years before overlapping for more than 100,000 years after that.
The team suspect that the Nesher Ramla people were the source from which many humans of the Middle Pleistocene developed - including 'European' Neanderthals.