Just as we all were getting used to the idea that our species has been around roughly 195,000 to 200,000 years, paleontologists now tell us it’s time to put another 100,000 candles on the birthday cake.

Last week, two new studies published in the journal Nature laid out a new theory based on the study of fossils discovered in Morocco in 1961 that Homo sapiens – i.e., humans – have been around for at least 300,000 years. This represents a considerable shift in the timeline when it comes to the theory of humanity’s origins.

Previously the oldest human skull fragments were estimated to be a little shy of 200,000 years old. Skull fragments from Omo-Kibish are believed to be 195,000 years old, while fossils found in Ethiopia and parts of East Africa are believed to be between 154,000 and 160,000 years old.

With the official inclusion of the Moroccan fossils into the human family, the territory for where humans are believed to have gotten our start has dramatically expanded, too. We’re no longer just from one neighborhood in East Africa.

Consensus is growing in the scientific community that early humans may have arisen in several regions across the continent at once, though it was a relatively small band that left East Africa 70,000 years ago that we owe special thanks to. Those were our ancestors.

The Moroccan fossils have opened the door to the past in ways we didn’t expect when we first began to study them nearly 60 years ago. When they were first discovered, they were strangers. Over the course of a generation of scientific scrutiny, we found out they were family.