Last year, researchers in Germany made a discovery that was so stunning and confusing that they held off on publishing their research until now. They found a pair of 9.7 million-year-old Teeth that have the potential to rewrite everything we assumed about human origins. On Friday the research team, led by lead author Herbert Lutz, release a preprint of these findings on ResearchGate, a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share their work,

How the ancient teeth were discovered

According to their released preprint, the ancient human teeth were discovered by researchers last September when they were digging through gravel and sand along the Proto-Rhine River near the municipality of Eppelsheim, Germany.

One of the teeth is a molar, while the other is a canine. The 9.7 million-year-old canine tooth resembles those of “Lucy”, the 3.2 million-year-old skeleton of an extinct primate species (Australopithecus afarensis) related to humans that was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974.

To made matters even more mysterious, the teeth did not resemble any other known species ever discovered in Europe or Asia. According to Mental Floss, they were able to date the teeth by using the remains of an extinct horse species found in the same location.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that it was due to these reasons that confused scientists held off on publishing their findings. The teeth will now be on display at a state exhibition before heading to be put in the Natural History Museum in Mainz.

What this means for human history

According to “The Independent” Lutz told local German media that, “They are clearly ape teeth, their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim.” He added of the discovery that it was “a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery” and that the “real work” to discovering the secret behind the teeth has only just started.

There has been a large amount of fossil evidence found through Europe to show that great apes were roaming the continent millions of years ago. However, there has never been a confirmed case of hominins species closely related to modern humans found in Europe.

The current consensus that scientists have agreed to is that modern day humans evolved out of East Africa between 400,000 to 200,000 years ago before they spread out across the world as recently as 70,000 years ago. For now, the team of researchers who discovered the teeth plan to keep examining them for clues.