The discovery of finger bones from a Neanderthal child who died 115,000 years ago is transforming existing knowledge about Europe’s first hominids.
“The bones discovered by our team at Jaskinia Ciemna [a cave in the southern Malopolska region] are the oldest hominid remains from the area of Poland,” Professor Pawel Valde-Nowak from the Jagiellonian University of Krakow told PAP.
The three teeth and tiny finger bones of a Neanderthal child that died roughly 115,000 years ago predate the previous oldest hominid bones found in the area by more than two times.
The bones, found several meters below the contemporary floor of the cave that seems to have been occupied by a species of hominoids for thousands of years, show signs of digestion, apparently by a large extinct bird, archaeologists say.
Tiny as they are, the finger bones still tell much about the Neanderthal child, aged five to seven years old, who may have been attacked and killed by a bird of prey or a scavenger may have eaten and gnawed the child’s fingers after she/he had died.
It was only after a detailed analysis that scientists finally determined that the remains found in the Polish cave belonged to Neanderthals. The discovery is transforming the existing knowledge about Europe’s first hominids.
Previously, the oldest Neanderthal remains were three molars dated to 52,000-54,000 years old.
Despite their age they are fairly recent compared to a set of fossils found in Morocco and believed to be 320,000 years old.