The last chimp/human common ancestor died out between five and seven million years ago, giving way to the first pre-humans.

But the lineage shared by humans and great apes split several hundred thousand years earlier than we thought, according to new findings.

In other words, we split off from our furry friends and began our separate evolution into humans earlier than scientists previously argued.

A group of researchers, headed by Professor Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen and Professor Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, found two fossils that came from before humans were around.

The researchers analysed a lower jaw and an upper premolar fossil from Greece and Bulgaria respectively, and found they had characteristics of early humans.

These fossilied bones from the hominid Graecopithecus freybergi are several hundred thousand years older than the oldest potential pre-human from Africa.

This lead the team to conclude that the split of the human lineage likely occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean, not in Africa, as previously thought.

Pre-humans have only ever previously been found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Professor David Begun from Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto told EurekaAlert!:

This dating allows us to move the human-chimpanzee split into the Mediterranean area.

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