New evidence for the earliest modern humans in Europe

Nov 02, 2011
This is a photograph of the maxilla, including three teeth, of the earliest known modern human in Europe, discovered during excavations at Kent’s Cavern, Devon, in 1927. Credit: Chris Collins (NHM) and Torquay Museum

The timing, process and archeology of the peopling of Europe by early modern humans have been actively debated for more than a century. Reassessment of the anatomy and dating of a fragmentary upper jaw with three teeth from Kent's Cavern in southern England has shed new light on these issues.

Originally found in 1927, Kent's Cavern and its human have been reassessed by an international team, including Erik Trinkaus, PhD, professor of in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and the results published in Nature.

The Kent's Cavern human joins the human skull and lower jaw from the Peştera cu Oase, Romania, in establishing the presence of modern humans at both ends of Europe (northwest and southeast) by at least 40,000 years ago.

"Modern humans were previously known to be this old in southeastern Europe, but they had not been documented as early in western Europe until the reassessment of the Kent's Cavern fossil," Trinkaus says. "The new date for the Kent's Cavern suggests a rapid spread of modern humans once they had crossed into Europe."

All three of these fossils, although anatomically "modern," possess archaic features, indicating some degree of intermixture with the European Neandertals as modern human spread across Europe.

None of these fossils is associated with diagnostic archeological remains, but they date close to the appearance of the Aurignacian industry, Trinkaus says. This supports the long-held view that the Early Upper Paleolithic Aurignacian represents early modern humans in the region.

Explore further: Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ongoing evolution among modern humans

Jan 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- It has long been the common perception that once modern humans appeared more than 50,000 years ago, little has changed in human biology.

How modern were European Neandertals?

Aug 25, 2006

Neandertals were much more like modern humans than had been previously thought, according to a re-examination of finds from one of the most famous palaeolithic sites in Europe by Bristol University archaeologist, ...

Scientists redate Neanderthal fossils

Jan 05, 2006

Scientists say two Neanderthal fossils excavated from Vindija Cave in Croatia in 1998 may be 3,000-4,000 years older than originally thought.

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

16 hours ago

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

Apr 17, 2014

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...