View Full Version : British Neanderthals: Jawbone May Provide First Evidence

Saturday, December 16th, 2006, 01:06 PM

A piece of jawbone known to be thousands of years old is being re-examined by scientists who believe it may be Britain's first direct evidence of Neanderthal man.

The bone was excavated from Kents Cavern in Torquay, south Devon in 1927 and was thought to be about 31,000 years old.

However a team at the Natural History Museum are wondering if the jawbone is actually more ancient, perhaps from a Neanderthal.

The new research was initiated when Dr Roger Jacobi and Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum obtained new radio-carbon dating for animal bones found in cave sediments directly above and below where the jaw fragment was found.

These indicated that the layer in which the bone, which is being analysed by the University of Hull's Centre for Medical Engineering and Technology, was dated between 37,000 and 40,000 years ago.

The scientists have said if the bone is the same age it would be evidence that Neanderthals once lived and confirm that Neanderthals spread across Europe and reached Britain far earlier than is currently thought.

Dr Roger Jacobi said: "Hull University has a micro-CT scanner capable of scanning the sample at a very high resolution.

"The scan of the jaw fragment will take six hours, but it will then be possible to create a three-dimensional computer model of it and even a plastic replica.

"This will be used to ascertain whether the jawbone and teeth have been put back together correctly, as they were found in fragments."

Further research on the jawbone fragment is planned.

Professor Chris Stringer and Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University in St Louis, USA, will be carrying out a physical examination of the specimen to see if it carries any features of either modern humans or Neanderthals.

A tooth from the jawbone will be extracted and sent to Oxford University, where researchers will carry out DNA analysis to see if any traces of Neanderthal DNA can be detected.

Kents Cavern managing director Nick Powe, said: "We are really hopeful about the findings of this new research.

"If this research proves that the bone is 40,000 years old not only would that make it the oldest in Europe but it would be the first direct evidence in Britain on Neanderthal man.

"The heritage of Kents Cavern gets more and more interesting all the time, and the cave is always full of surprises."

Source (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=421879&in_page_id=1965)