February 2, 2010

Three Neanderthal Teeth Found In Poland

Polish scientists announced Monday that they have found three Neanderthal teeth in a cave in Poland and are eager to find a link to modern man, reported the Associated Press.

Though Neanderthal artifacts have been discovered in Poland before, the teeth represent the first bodily remains uncovered in the country, said Mikolaj Urbanowski, an archaeologist with Szczecin University and the project's lead researcher.

According to Urbanowski, the teeth were found in the Stajna Cave, north of the Carpathian Mountains, along with flint tools and the bones of two extinct Ice Age species: the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros.

He said the team also unearthed a hammer made of reindeer antler and bones of cave bears with cut marks, suggesting they were eaten by the Neanderthals.

"The cave bears were big, dangerous animals and this supports the view the Neanderthals were really efficient hunters," Urbanowski said.

Published in the online German science journal Naturwissenschaften on January 28, the article primarily focused on one tooth that supported the claim that it is from a Neanderthal about 20 years old when it died.

That particular tooth has been analyzed the most, but the team is confident that the other two teeth are also from Neanderthals who lived 100,000 to 80,000 years ago, said Urbanowski.

Judging by the placement of the teeth along with flint tools, the team hypothesizes that the site could have been some kind of primitive burial site. If it were indeed a burial site, it would indicate that Neanderthals believed in an afterlife.

"How they treated their dead is crucial to understanding how human-like they were," he said, but he emphasized that much more research would be necessary to prove that hypothesis.

Photo Courtesy Department of Archaeology, Institute of History and International Relations, Szczecin University


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