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Dr Abdelouahed Ben-Ncer, who worked on the study, said: 'North Africa has long been neglected in the debates surrounding the origin of our species.

The spectacular discoveries from Jebel Irhoud (pictured) demonstrate the tight connections of the Maghreb with the rest of the African continent at the time of Homo sapiens' emergence'The earliest Homo sapiens fossils are found across the entire African continent: Jebel Irhoud, Morocco (300,000 years), Florisbad, South Africa (260,000 years), and Omo Kibish, Ethiopia (195,000 years).

Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin, paleoanthropologist, director of the department of the human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, poses for a photograph after a press conference held in Paris, France to announce the findings They were unable to determine the sex of the individuals, as no pelvic bones were found.

Teresa Steele, a paleoanthropologist at the University of California, Davis, who analyzed animal fossils at Jebel Irhoud, said plenty of gazelle meat, with the occasional wildebeest, zebra and other game and perhaps the seasonal ostrich egg was the diet of the time.

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Cuts and breaks on long bones indicate that humans broke them open, likely to eat the marrow, she said.Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin, who led the study, said: 'We used to think that there was a cradle of mankind 200,000 years ago in east Africa, but our new data reveal that Homo sapiens spread across the entire African continent around 300,000 years ago.'Long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo sapiens, there was dispersal within Africa.'Jebel Irhous has been known since the 1960s for its human fossils, and the latest discovery brings the total number of remains to 22.The team of researchers discovered skulls, teeth and long bones from at least five individuals - two adults, and three children.'The big question is – did this happen in one place in Africa?We don't think this was the case.'The skulls of modern humans are characterised by features that distinguish us from our ancestors, including a small and slender face, and globular braincase.Dr Philipp Gunz, who also worked on the study, said: 'The inner shape of the braincase reflects the shape of the brain.'Our findings suggest that modern human facial morphology was established early on in the history of our species, and that brain shape, and possibly brain function, evolved within the Homo sapiens lineage.'The team also recalculated the age of a lower jaw found at Jebel Irhoud in the 1960s.

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