Neanderthal teeth found in a Polish cave
A team of Polish scientists said on Monday they had discovered three Neanderthal teeth in a cave, which they hope may shed light on how similar our evolutionary cousins were to modern humans.
Neanderthal artifacts were discovered in Poland earlier. But the teeth are the first corporeal remains of Neanderthals found in the country, according to Mikołaj Urbanowski, an archaeologist at the University of Szczecin and the main researcher of the project.
Urbanowski said the teeth were discovered in the Stajnia Cave, north of the Carpathians, along with flint tools and bones of a woolly mammoth and a woolly rhinoceros, both extinct species from the Ice Age.
Researchers also found a hammer made of reindeer antlers and cave bear bones with cut marks, indicating that they were eaten by Neanderthals, Urbanowski said.
“Cave bears were large, dangerous animals, supporting the idea that Neanderthals were really successful hunters,” he said.
The findings were reported by the German science journal Naturwissenschaften in a January 28 online article.
The article focused mainly on one of the teeth, providing evidence for the claim that it was a molar of a Neanderthal who died around the age of 20.
Urbanowski said the tooth went through the most analysis, but the team is pretty sure the other two also belonged to Neanderthals, who lived between 100,000 and 80,000 years ago.
The placement of the teeth along with the flint tools led the team to hypothesize that the site may have been some sort of primitive burial site, indicating a belief in an afterlife.
Jeffrey Schwartz, a professor of physical anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, said the find is significant because it proves that Neanderthals lived in a region where little evidence has been found so far. However, he said there is not enough evidence at this time to draw any conclusions about a possible burial site.
“No one is ceremonially burying one human tooth,” said Schwartz, who wasn’t involved in the research but reviewed an early version of the paper.