Archaeology news: ‘Important’ 48,000-year tooth belonged to one of last Italy Neanderthals
The archaeological wonder was uncovered in the Berici Hills of Veneto region, Northern Italy. A team of researchers from the Universities of Bologna and Ferrara uncovered a small canine tooth likely belonging to an 11 or 12-year Neanderthal child. The tooth has been dated to about 48,000 years ago and is the most recent Neanderthal discovery in Italy.
The Neanderthals or Homo neanderthalensis were a subspecies of human who occupied Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago.
In many ways, Neanderthals resembled Homo sapiens, albeit with stockier builds, shorter limbs, bigger noses and heads.
And although archaeologists know when the species went extinct, little is still know about why this happened.
Leading theories suggest Neanderthals were wiped out by a combination of disease, climate change as well as aggression from early European humans.
Because of these unknowns, the discovery in Italy has been dubbed “extremely important”.
Genetic analysis of the tooth suggests its owner was related, on the mother’s side, to Neanderthals living in Belgium.
The insight suggests the hills in Veneto could uncover more clues about the species’ extinction.
Stefano Benazzi, professor at the University of Bologna, said: “This small tooth is extremely important. This is even more relevant if we consider that, when this child who lived in Veneto lost their tooth, Homo Sapiens communities were already present a thousand kilometres away in Bulgaria”
The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Human Evolution.
Matteo Romandini, the lead author of this study and researcher at the University of Bologna, said: “This work stems from the synergy between different disciplines and specializations.
“High-resolution prehistoric field-archaeology allowed us to find the tooth, then we employed virtual approaches to the analyses of its shape, genome, taphonomy and of its radiometric profile.
“Following this process, we could identify this tooth as belonging to a child that was one of the last Neanderthals in Italy.”
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According to the researchers, the tooth is an upper canine milk-tooth.
It most likely belonged to a child between the age of 11 and 12 that lived between 48,000 and 45,000 years ago.
The preliminary results suggest this part of Northern Italy has been used for a long time.
Archaeologists have found evidence of hunting and butchering activities.
Marco Peresanti, a professor of the University of Ferrara, said: “The manufacturing of tools, mainly made of flint, shows Neanderthals’ great adaptability and their systematic and specialized exploitation of the raw materials available in this area.”
The news comes after archaeologists have sequenced the DNA of Europe’s oldest Neanderthal DNA.
The study was carried out on an 80,000-year-old tooth found in Poland.
The researchers said: “We were thrilled when the genetic analysis revealed that the tooth was at least 80,000 years old.
“Fossils of this age are very difficult to find and, generally, DNA is not well preserved.”
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