First Humans in Europe Identified
Researchers at the Oxford University have determined that a recovered jawbone and teeth originate from the first modern humans in Europe. The researchers first believed the fossils, which were found in a prehistoric cave in Italy, were those of the Neanderthal. Through additional research, they concluded that they were in fact from anatomically modern humans. Radiocarbon testing revealed the age of the bones, 43,000 — 45,000 years old, the oldest of any modern human remains in Europe.
Another piece of jawbone that was unearthed from Kent's Cavern in Devon, England, was found to be 41,000 — 44,000 years old. Both findings were published in the journal, Nature, by Oxford researchers.
The new dates, established using the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, are hugely significant as they suggest that modern humans arrived in Europe much earlier than previously believed. That means anatomically modern humans are likely to have co-existed with Neanderthals in this part of the world for several thousand years.
The team which determined the age of the Italian fossils was led by Dr. Stefano Benazzi and Professor Gerhard Weber from the University of Vienna. The jawbone and teeth were found in the Grotta del Cavallo.
The dates placed modern humans at the same time that Neanderthals existed in Europe. Two separate humanoid species shared the continent. The Neanderthals were believed to have been wiped out by competition with humans or possibly by interbreeding with humans.
According to research conducted by Richard E. Green and Paul Rincon, Neanderthal genes make up approximately 1-4% of the genome of people from Eurasia.
Link to published article: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10617.html
Image credit: Stefano Benazzi