Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Earliest European modern humans found

23.09.2003


A research team co-directed by Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, has dated a human jawbone from a Romanian bear hibernation cave to between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago. That makes it the earliest known modern human fossil in Europe.


Jawbone, temporal bone and facial skeleton from early Europeans



Other human bones from the same cave -- a temporal bone, a facial skeleton and a partial braincase -- are still undergoing analysis, but are likely to be the same age. The jawbone was found in February 2002 in Pestera cu Oase, the "Cave with Bones," located in the southwestern Carpathian Mountains. The other bones were found in June 2003.

The results on the jawbone will be published the week of Sept. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS; www.pnas.org) Online Early Edition. A report on the other bones will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Human Evolution (www.sciencedirect.com). The finds should shed much-needed light on early modern human biology.


"The jawbone is the oldest directly dated modern human fossil," said Trinkaus, the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Anthropology. "Taken together, the material is the first that securely documents what modern humans looked like when they spread into Europe. Although we call them ’modern humans,’ they were not fully modern in the sense that we think of living people."

To determine the fossils’ implications for human evolution, Trinkaus and colleagues performed radiocarbon dating of the jawbone (dating of the other remains is in progress) and a comparative anatomical analysis of the sample. The jawbone dates from between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago, placing the specimens in the period during which early modern humans overlapped with late surviving Neandertals in Europe.

Most of their anatomical characteristics are similar to those of other early modern humans found at sites in Africa, in the Middle East and later in Europe, but certain features, such as the unusual molar size and proportions, indicate their archaic human origins and a possible Neandertal connection.

The researchers document that these early modern humans retained some archaic characteristics, possibly through interbreeding with Neandertals. Nevertheless, because few well-dated remains from this period have been found, the fossil remains help to fill in an important phase in modern human emergence.

"The specimens suggest that there have been clear changes in human anatomy since then," said Trinkaus. "The bones are also fully compatible with the blending of modern human and Neandertal populations. Not only is the face very large, but so are the jaws and the teeth, particularly the wisdom teeth. In the human fossil record, you have to go back a half-million years to find a specimen that has bigger wisdom teeth."

The jawbone was found by three Romanian cavers, who contacted Oana Moldovan, director of the Institutul de Speologie, a cave research institute in Cluj, Romania. Moldovan in turn, recognizing the importance of the jawbone, contacted Trinkaus.

The two met in Europe in May 2002, and Trinkaus brought the jawbone temporarily to Washington University for analysis. Trinkaus, Moldovan, the cavers and Ricardo Rodrigo, a Portuguese archaeologist, returned to the cave in June 2003 to produce a map and survey the cave’s surface. In the process, the cavers and Rodrigo found the facial skeleton, temporal bone and other pieces that are now undergoing analysis.

Since then, Trinkaus and Moldovan have assembled an international team to document and excavate the cave and analyze the material after it comes out from the cave. The cave was primarily used for bear hibernation. It is not known how the human bones got into the cave, but Trinkaus says one possibility is that early humans used the cave as a mortuary cave for the ritual disposal of human bodies. Some of the bear bones were rearranged by humans, documenting past human activities in the cave.

"The jaw was originally found sitting by itself; the material this summer was found mixed up with bear bones," Trinkaus said. "After they found the face, they collected everything on the surface that might be human, packaged it up and brought it out of the cave. Some of the pieces that they carried out of the cave are, in fact, bear. We know that more of the skull is in the same place, but it was buried or not recognized at the time."

The team plans to return to Romania next summer to continue the scientific analysis of the cave and its contents.

Susan Killenberg McGinn | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu/
http://www.pnas.org
http://www.sciencedirect.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Microbes can grow on nitric oxide (NO)
18.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Novel methods for analyzing neural circuits for innate behaviors in insects
15.03.2019 | Kanazawa University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

Im Focus: A thermo-sensor for magnetic bits

New concept for energy-efficient data processing technology

Scientists of the Department of Physics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, detected the magnetic states of atoms on a surface using only heat. The...

Im Focus: The moiré patterns of three layers change the electronic properties of graphene

Combining an atomically thin graphene and a boron nitride layer at a slightly rotated angle changes their electrical properties. Physicists at the University of Basel have now shown for the first time the combination with a third layer can result in new material properties also in a three-layer sandwich of carbon and boron nitride. This significantly increases the number of potential synthetic materials, report the researchers in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Last year, researchers in the US caused a big stir when they showed that rotating two stacked graphene layers by a “magical” angle of 1.1 degrees turns...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers measure near-perfect performance in low-cost semiconductors

18.03.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Nanocrystal 'factory' could revolutionize quantum dot manufacturing

18.03.2019 | Materials Sciences

Long-distance quantum information exchange -- success at the nanoscale

18.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>