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Tautavel Man 560,000 years old

Moderators: dpyates, jakayj, suelevin1, dnacommunities, teresapy, D J Thornton

D J Thornton
Posts: 321
Joined: Sat Aug 01, 2015 3:58 am

Tautavel Man 560,000 years old

Postby D J Thornton » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:36 am

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris and Agence France-Presse
Tuesday 28 July 2015 08.11 EDT Last modified on Tuesday 28 July 2015 19.00 EDT
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015 ... s-tautavel

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A French student has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in south-western France, in what researchers are hailing as a major discovery.

Valentin Loescher, 20, was volunteering alongside Camille Jacquey, 16, on his first summer archaeological dig at the Arago cave near Tautavel, when he discovered the tooth.

The tooth could be the oldest human remains found in France. It predates by 100,000 years the famous Tautavel man, a 20-year-old prehistoric hunter and ancestor of Neanderthal man, who was discovered at the site in 1971 and whose remains dated back about 450,000 years.

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A closeup photo of the tooth found by Valentin Loescher at the Arago cave near Tautavel. Photograph: Denis Dainat/EPA
Amélie Vialet, a paleoanthropologist overseeing the excavation at the cave, told Agence France-Presse: “A large adult tooth – we can’t say if it was from a male or female – was found during excavations of soil we know to be between 550,000 and 580,000 years old, because we used different dating methods. This is a major discovery because we have very few human fossils from this period in Europe.”

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The tooth before it was removed from the soil. Photograph: Denis Dainat/EPA
Yves Coppens, professor of paleoanthropology and prehistory at the Collège de France, who was part of the 1970s team that discovered the remains of the famous early human ancestor known as Lucy in Ethiopia, told France Info radio: “A tooth can tell us a whole range of things. Its shape and wear and tear tells us about the eating habits of the person in question; the tissue reveals a lot of information. The DNA can give an idea as to who this person was.”

Loescher, a history of art student from Metz, told France Television that while Jacquey was on a break he had been carefully brushing a mound of soil in his excavation area that featured lots of remains of large animals, when he found the small remains of a tooth.

He and Jacquey weren’t sure of the tooth’s significance, so took it to Vialet. Its profile was examined by computer and it was sent to a laboratory. “At that moment, there was a lot of excitement,” Loescher said.

“I’m not sure if it has sunk in yet. I’m happy, but there’s nothing to be proud of. I was just in the right section at the right time.”

He said he would finish his three-week stint at the site.

The Arago cave at Tautavel, north of Perpignan, is one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites, and has been excavated for about 50 years.

D J Thornton
Posts: 321
Joined: Sat Aug 01, 2015 3:58 am

Re: Tautavel Man 560,000 years old

Postby D J Thornton » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:39 am

French teen finds 560,000-year-old human tooth at prehistoric Tautavel site
Updated 28 Jul 2015, 2:48pm
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-28/f ... th/6655312

PHOTO: The tooth is believed to have belonged to the Homo heidelbergensis species. (Supplied: Musée Homme de Tautavel)
MAP: France
A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in south-western France — a discovery that researchers are hailing a "major discovery".

"A large adult tooth — we can't say if it was from a male or female — was found during excavations of soil we know to be between 550,000 and 580,000-years-old, because we used different dating methods," paleoanthropologist Amelie Viallet said.

"This is a major discovery because we have very few human fossils from this period in Europe."

The tooth was found in the Arago cave near the village of Tautavel, one of the world's most important prehistoric sites which has been excavated for about 50 years.

External Link: tooth tweet
It is also the site of the discovery of over 140 fossils belonging to Tautavel Man, an early hominid that lived an estimated 450,000 years ago.

Volunteer Camille, 16, was working with another young archaeologist when she found the tooth last Thursday.

They were among the hundreds of young trainee archaeologists who come to work in the cave every year to study human ancestors during the lower Paleolithic era, when they first began to use tools.

The owner of the very worn lower incisor lived during a cold, dry and windy period, and according to archaeological finds in the cave, hunted horses, reindeer, bison and rhinoceros.

For a long time the Heidelberg jaw — including the chin and full set of lower teeth — discovered in Germany in 1907 dating to around 600,000 years ago, was the oldest fossil of human ancestors in western Europe.

However, some archaeological sites offered up evidence of stone tools dating back much earlier.

This has left many questions and stirred debate about the life and presence of human ancestors in Europe before modern humans rose out of Africa and went on to conquer the planet.

In 2013, the discovery of a fossil tooth in south-eastern Spain, which dated to about 1.4 million years ago, shook up the timeline of the colonisation of Europe by modern humans.

'We need them to find a skeleton'

Dr Matthew Skinner, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Kent in Britain, said that while the find was important as there are few human fossils from this period, "a single tooth, I wouldn't say is a major discovery, unfortunately".

"If there's something about its shape or its size that would suggest that it is different from the other fossils we have from that time period and perhaps belongs to a different species, then that would be of course very interesting."

He said the most obvious species to which the tooth would belong would be Homo heidelbergensis — the owner of the German jaw — about whom little is known.

"These are certainly different from modern humans, they existed before Neanderthals. They had quite large brains and fairly complex behaviour but weren't modern in the way that we are," he said.

"They were quite robust, very stocky individuals, they had really massive skulls."

However, Dr Skinner said most fossils available came from above the neck, making it difficult to understand the species.

"What we need is for them to find a skeleton. We have lots of skulls of heidelbergensis but what we don't have are arms and legs and ribs and pelvis. There's a few pieces, but it's really not very much."

Tony Chevalier, another paleoanthropologist from Tautavel, said the tooth would also shine a light on the current debate over Homo heidelbergensis.

"Was Homo heidelbergensis simply European or also African? It is a very important debate," Mr Chevalier said.

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