Remains Of The Oldest European Homo Sapiens Found In Bulgaria
In addition to human bones, scientists have found necklaces made of bear claws, which may indicate the oldest contacts of representatives of our species with Neanderthals.
In the Bacho Kiro cave in the center of Bulgaria, paleontologists have found the remains of Homo sapiens, which lived about 47 thousand years ago. This is the oldest known representative of our species in Europe. The results of their work were published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
"Analysis of the structure of teeth and the structure of mitochondrial DNA extracted from these remains makes it possible to uniquely link them to Homo sapiens. This discovery suggests that the first representatives of our species got into the temperate climate zone of Eurasia at least 45 thousand years ago," the scientists write.
Scientists believe that the first representatives of our kind, Neanderthals, appeared in Europe about 300-400 thousand years ago. The first representatives of our species, Homo sapiens, were there much later, about 40 thousand years ago. This is indicated by the oldest remains of Homo sapiens and their characteristic tools, which scientists found at the turn of the century in the caves of Romania and Italy.
In recent years, after scientists found traces of Neanderthal DNA in the human genome, and also discovered unexpectedly late Neanderthal sites in Spain and Croatia, scientists began to wonder when exactly CRO-magnons entered Europe. The answer to this question can tell anthropologists exactly how Homo sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis came into contact with each other, as well as find out exactly how Neanderthals disappeared from the face of the Earth.
Thanks to the findings from the Bulgarian cave Bacho Kiro, paleontologists, and paleogeneticists led by Professor of the Institute of evolutionary anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) Jean-Jacques Yublanc significantly pushed back the time when CRO-magnons got to Europe.
This cave is one of the most famous sites of ancient people in Europe. Anthropologists and paleontologists began studying it in the 1970s. Scientists have found there some bones of ancient hominids, which, however, subsequently lost, this is normal and is not known. On the other hand, in this cave, scientists have found primitive tools that many anthropologists associate with the first CRO-magnons of Europe.
In 2015, Yublanc and his colleagues became interested in these finds and decided to organize their excavations. Scientists focused on the southern and eastern corners of the cave, which their predecessors did not study. As a result, they found many fragments of bones and teeth in the ground at the bottom of the cave.
Except for one human tooth that belonged to Homo sapiens, scientists have not been able to determine the species of these remains only by their shape. So they extracted scraps of DNA and protein from the bones and measured their age using a particle accelerator.
As it turned out, some of these fragments belonged to a man, while the rest, judging by the pattern of scratches and the structure of proteins, belonged to animals whose meat was eaten by the inhabitants of the cave. Among them were bison, red deer, various representatives of the goat family, as well as cave bears, from whose teeth the cave inhabitants made necklaces.
The age of many of these remains, including the teeth and bones of Homo sapiens, was unexpectedly large – in some cases, it reached 47 thousand years. This makes both these bones of ancient Homo sapiens and their associated tools the oldest traces of our species in Europe so far.
This discovery, as noted by Blanc and his colleagues, suggests that Neanderthals and CRO-magnons had long enough contact with each other before the former became completely extinct. In favor of this, in particular, say necklaces made of bear teeth, analogs of which are usually found in Neanderthal sites. How exactly such "cross-cultural" interactions took place, anthropologists have yet to find out, the authors conclude.