An international team of researchers have analysed DNA sequences from more than 3,000 fossils and analysed the evolution of the human species from apes.
The researchers analysed samples from a range of different groups and found the majority of fossils from the Mesolithic era are apes, while other groups were most closely related to modern humans.
“It was quite clear that there were very few apes in the past,” lead author Dr. Robert D. Krammer, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, told AFP news agency.
“The only apes that we had in the last 5,000 years were the hominids and then the great apes.
There was no ape species in the modern human family tree.”
Kramner and his colleagues compared DNA from more, more and more fossils, looking for patterns of variation that could explain how and why humans evolved.
They concluded that human ancestors evolved from apes about 10,000 to 15,000 million years ago.
In the last few million years, humans have undergone a number of changes, including the emergence of agriculture and domestication.
The human lineage as a whole is thought to have gone extinct about 11,000-11,500 years ago, which coincides with the start of the last ice age.
The last Ice Age ended about 11 000 years ago but scientists don’t think humans have been around much longer.
A major issue is that we can’t say whether the ice age started before or after the last Ice age, but it is certain that humans have disappeared from the fossil record, according to a paper published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“I think this paper gives us a lot of confidence that humans are the last of the apes,” Kramer told AFP.
Klimmer and his team are now analysing a further 3,200 fossils from around the world and plans to present their results to the Royal Society in February.