Homo sapiens -- aka the human species -- walked the African continent at least 300,000 years ago, according to two studies published Wednesday which show that humans' forebears existed earlier and were more far-flung than suspected.
As a result, the origin story for humans may be more fragmented than previous evidence suggested, involving stiff competition from other hominins, or early humans, and a fair measure of luck, says Antoine Balzeau, an anthropologist at France's Musee de l'Homme.
Who are Homo sapiens?
The Homo sapiens is modern man, our own species. Two traits in particular distinguish us from other early human species. One is our chin, the bony bump protruding from the lower jaw that is absent in other hominins. The other is our "house shaped" skull: widest towards the top with nearly vertical sides.
Also unique are a pair of bones held together by a fibrous joint that form a kind of skull cap, called the parietal bones. They are much higher than in other early humans, though the skull of our cousins the Neanderthals is wider.
We know now that homo sapiens have been around for at least 300,000 years. Neanderthals, who died out about 30,000 years ago, had a run that lasted about that long. Homo erectus, another early human, walked the Earth for about 1.5 million years.