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23 September 2011
'The Girl from the Lozoya Valley'

There is a very famous archaeological site, near Madrid in Spain, known as the Calvero de la Higuerra site in Pinilla del Valle. Excavations have been carried out there for over ten years, funded by a 180,000 Euro grant from the Spanish Regional Department of Arts, Education and the Environment. This site has proved itself to be one of the richest paleoarchaeological sites in Europe and has yielded more than 3,000 fauna fossils so far.
     However, a new find has been described as being so important that the Vice-Premier of the regional government, Ignacio Gonzalez, has orderd the purchase of more land, to expand the excavations. The find is that of four teeth belonging to a two and a half year old girl, dated at approximately 40,000 BCE, placing her with a Neanderthal family.
     The child has been nicknamed as 'The Girl from the Lozoya Valley'. The leader of the excavation, Enrique Baquedano, is quoted as saying "It's an extraordinary discovery. Not only because of the enormous quantity of biological and genetic information that the teeth, due to their hardness, provide, but also because the discovery of dental pieces happens in a specific context - that is to say, within a series of elements and references that allow us to generalise the scientific knowledge [the discovery] provides". "There are no previous examples of similar finds in the Madrid area, it is very important in the Iberian Peninsula and, in truth, relevant for Europe".
     It is hoped that the study of the DNA extracted from the teeth will enable the team to ascertain her diet, vocal ability annd brain capacity.

Edited from El Pais (15 September 2011)

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