Homo sapiens arrived earlier in Europe than previously known
Comparison of micro-computed-tomography scans of teethStefano Benazzi, post-doc at the Department of Anthropology at University of Vienna, and his colleagues were able to compare digital models derived from micro-computed tomography scans of the human remains from Grotta del Cavallo with those of a large modern human and Neanderthal dental sample: "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. 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."
New chronometric analyses of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator UnitKaterina Douka, post-doc at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and History of Art at the University of Oxford, undertook a comprehensive programme of radiocarbon dating to establish a firm chronology for the finds. Previous dates for the Uluzzian were problematic and affected by contamination. Since the teeth were too small to date directly, Douka developed a new approach that focused on the dating of marine shells found in the same archaeological levels as the teeth. This approach showed that the modern human teeth must date to between ~43,000-45,000 years ago. Douka said, "Radiocarbon dating of Palaeolithic material is difficult because the levels of remaining radiocarbon are very low and contamination can be problematic. Shell beads are important objects of body ornamentation and have allowed us directly and reliably radiocarbon date items associated with these early Homo sapiens settlers of Europe."
Uluzzian culture was made by modern humans"What the new dates mean", Benazzi summarised, "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. This has important implications to our understanding of the development of 'fully modern' human behaviour. Whether the colonisation of the continent occurred in one or more waves of expansion and which routes were followed is still to be established."
International collaboration makes it possibleGerhard Weber, head of the Core Facility for Micro-Computed Tomography and deputy head of the Department of Anthropology at University of Vienna, commented on the discovery in the following way: "Human fossil material is very rare, particularly well preserved deciduous teeth. It is only thanks to the collaboration of several European institutions that fossil remains were accessible. The re-evaluation of the Cavallo material was only made possible through technical innovations developed in the last decade, known as 'Virtual Anthropology'. These new techniques developed for dental morphometrics and also new radiocarbon dating will help to address taxonomic questions associated with other contentious human fossil remains."
SupportThis work was supported by NSF 01-120 Hominid Grant 2007, A.E.R.S. Dental Medicine Organisations GmbH FA547013, the Foundation Fyssen and the DFG INST 37/706-1 FUGG. The Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit is partly financed by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). http://www.nerc.ac.uk/
PublicationThe Early dispersal of modern humans in Europe and implications for Neanderthal behaviour. Benazzi, S., Douka, K., Fornai, C., Bauer, C.C., Kullmer, O., Svoboda, J., Pap, I., Mallegni, F., Bayle, P., Coquerelle, M., Condemi, S., Ronchitelli, A., Harvati, K., Weber, G.W. In. Nature, Nov. 3, 2011.
Scientific Contact Dr. Stefano Benazzi
Department of Anthropologie
A-1090 Wien, Althanstraße 14
T +43-1-4277-547 29
M +39-328-284 06 16
Dr. Katerina Douka
University of Oxford
T +44-1865-280 534
(especially for questions of chronometric analysis)
Press office University of ViennaMag. Veronika Schallhart
University of Vienna
A-1010 Wien, Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring 1
T +43-1-4277-175 30
M +43-664-602 77-175 30
-This finding is important and there are some very old sites in Spain which might be the same kind of people at the same date.The people would be Africans coming across the Mediterranean, via Gibraltar and Via Sicily. and why not? The evidence from South Africa indicates that Africans had been going out to the sea in ships for several tens of thousands of years before this date.
Almost certainly these Early africans have been known already under the old term "Grimaldi Man"
And the skulls are of a good African type, similar to the more African looking skulls from Djebel qafzeh, supposedly much earlier. The physical type has similarities to both Pygmies and Bushmen, although some mixing along the way has almost certainly occurred.