Milk tooth belonging to ‘one of the last Neanderthals in Northern Italy’ who lived 45,000 years ago is found in the Berici Hills west of Venice
- Tooth from the upper right side of a Neanderthal child’s mouth found in Venice
- Believed it belonged to a child who would have been around 12 years old
- Individual lived in Northern Italy in a rock shelter around 45,000 years ago
- Homo sapiens arrived in Europe shortly afterwards and forced Neanderthals to extinction
A milk tooth belonging to one of Italy’s last Neanderthal children has been found near Venice.
The canine tooth belonged to a pre-teen, likely 11 or 12 years old, and dates back 45,000 years.
Neanderthals went extinct around 40,000 years ago after being out-competed for food and shelter by the more intelligent Homo sapiens.
An upper canine milk-tooth (pictured) that belonged to a Neanderthal child, aged 11 or 12, that lived between 48,000 and 45,000 years ago was found in Northern Italy
Neanderthals (pictured, artist’s impression) went extinct around 40,000 years ago after millenia of struggling to compete with the superior intelligence of Homo sapiens which had recently arrived in Europe
The tooth would have been in the upper row of teeth on the right hand side of the child’s mouth.
It was discovered in a rock shelter at an archaeological site called ‘Riparo del Broion’ on the Berici Hills in the Veneto region, near Venice.
The tooth is the first ever human remain to be found at the site.
Genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA preserved inside the tooth, as well as analysis of the enamel and shape, reveal it is from a Neanderthal and not a Homo sapien.
Matteo Romandini, lead author of the study at the University of Bologna says: ‘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.’
Mitochondrial DNA is similar to normal DNA, except it is smaller and stored in the mitochondria, the powerhouses of human cells, not the nucleus.
A supercomputer may have finally ended the debate over what caused the extinction of Neanderthals.
Mathematicians used the enormous processing power of the IBS supercomputer Aleph to simulate what happened throughout Eurasia around 40,000 years ago.
It revealed that the most likely explanation for Neanderthal extinction is that Homo sapiens, who migrated into Europe around the time of the extinction of Neanderthals, were better hunters and out-competed them for food.
Humans and Neanderthals are known to have overlapped, and even mated, but the superior brain power of Homo sapiens eventually wiped out their distant cousins.
Experts have long quarrelled over whether it was tumultuous climate patterns, competition for food with Homo sapiens or the interbreeding with this new species that ultimately led to the demise of Neanderthals.
It is also inherited only from the mother and therefore paints a picture of maternal heredity.
The owner of this tooth had a mother who was descended from Neanderthals that had lived in Belgium, the DNA revealed.
‘This small tooth is extremely important’, says Stefano Benazzi, professor at the University of Bologna and research coordinator.
‘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 early findings are published in the Journal of Human Evolution and researchers are still delving through the other findings the archaeological site has revealed.
For example, there are many signs of hunting and that the site was used to butcher large animals.
‘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’, adds Marco Peresanti, a professor of the University of Ferrara who contributed to the study.
Neanderthals first arrived in Europe around 350,000 years ago and lived without rivals until around 45,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens first ventured into Eurasia.
When Homo sapiens — modern humans — moved into Europe they hunted the same animals and sought the same plants to survive a Neanderthals.
This proximity led to mingling and even interbreeding, Neanderthal DNA can be found in modern-day humans to this day.
It is believed the two species managed to co-exist for around 8,000 years, but the competition over limited resources led Neanderthals to extinction at some point between 43 to 38 thousand years ago.
A map showing the relative dates at which humans arrived in the different Continents, including Europe 45,000 years ago.Humans and Neanderthals co-existed for about 8,000 years before Neanderthals went extinct
A close relative of modern humans, Neanderthals went extinct 40,000 years ago
The Neanderthals were a close human ancestor that mysteriously died out around 40,000 years ago.
The species lived in Africa with early humans for millennia before moving across to Europe around 300,000 years ago.
They were later joined by humans, who entered Eurasia around 48,000 ears ago.
The Neanderthals were a cousin species of humans but not a direct ancestor – the two species split from a common ancestor – that perished around 50,000 years ago. Pictured is a Neanderthal museum exhibit
These were the original ‘cavemen’, historically thought to be dim-witted and brutish compared to modern humans.
In recent years though, and especially over the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent we’ve been selling Neanderthals short.
A growing body of evidence points to a more sophisticated and multi-talented kind of ‘caveman’ than anyone thought possible.
It now seems likely that Neanderthals had told, buried their dead, painted and even interbred with humans.
They used body art such as pigments and beads, and they were the very first artists, with Neanderthal cave art (and symbolism) in Spain apparently predating the earliest modern human art by some 20,000 years.
They are thought to have hunted on land and done some fishing. However, they went extinct around 40,000 years ago following the success of Homo sapiens in Europe.
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