Modern humans arrived in Europe millions of years earlier than thoughtPublished On: Thu, Nov 3rd, 2011 | Evolution | By BioNews
Researchers have confirmed that members of our species – Homo sapiens – arrived in Europe several millennia earlier than previously thought after re-analyses of two ancient deciduous teeth.
These teeth were discovered 1964 in the “Grotta del Cavallo”, a prehistoric cave in southern Italy.
Since their discovery they have been attributed to Neanderthals who lived around 200,000 to 40,000 years ago, but this new study suggested they belong to anatomically modern humans.
Chronometric analysis, carried out by the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford, showed that the layers within which the teeth were found date to approximately 43,000-45,000 years ago.
This means that the human remains are older than any other known European modern humans.
“We worked with two independent methods: for the one, we measured the thickness of the tooth enamel, and for the other, the general outline of the crown,” said Stefano Benazzi, post-doc at the Department of Anthropology at University of Vienna, which led the study.
“By means of micro-computed tomography it was possible to compare the internal and external features of the dental crown.
“The results clearly show that the specimens from Grotta del Cavallo were modern humans, not Neanderthals as originally thought.
“What the new dates mean is that these two teeth from Grotta del Cavallo represent the oldest European modern human fossils currently known.
“This find confirms that the arrival of our species on the continent – and thus the period of coexistence with Neanderthals – was several thousand years longer than previously thought.
“Based on this fossil evidence, we have confirmed that modern humans and not Neanderthals are the makers of the Uluzzian culture,” concluded Benazzi.
The research work was published in the renowned science journal Nature.