|29 December 2018
Oldest human remains in Poland
The oldest human remains discovered in Poland are about 115,000 years old. They are finger bones of a Neanderthal child which were digested by a large bird, and found in a cave. Previously the oldest human remains from Poland were three Neanderthal teeth estimated to be 52,000 to 42,000 years old, from a different cave.
The bones are small and very poorly preserved. DNA analysis is not possible, but Professor Pawel Valde-Nowak, from the Institute of Archeology of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow says "we have no doubts that these are Neanderthal remains, because they come from a very deep layer of the cave, a few metres below the present surface. This layer also contains typical stone tools used by the Neanderthal."
The bones were discovered a few years ago mixed up with animal bones. It was not until this year that researchers discovered that they were human bones.
Professor Valde-Nowak: "This is a unique discovery. Only single fragments of fossil bones belonging to relatives of modern man have survived to our times in Poland." There are no remains in Poland of human species from before the Neanderthal, such as Homo erectus.
Neanderthals probably appeared in Poland - as in all of Europe - about 300,000 years ago. Their oldest stone tools are over 200,000 years old. Thousands have been discovered in southern Poland; mainly knife-scrapers - tools with a cutting and scraping function. The northern part of present Poland was covered by a continental glacier.
Professor Valde-Nowak says there is no evidence that modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed in Poland. Neanderthals in Europe mostly died out about 35,000 years ago, but a 2006 article in the journal 'Nature' claimed the existence of 24,000 year old remains.
Research shows Neanderthals had much in common with us; archaeologists are often unable to distinguish between Neanderthal and modern human tools. Neanderthals also created of some of the rock drawings known from European caves, estimated to be over 64,000 years old.
Edited from Science in Poland (5 October 2018)
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