Remains of 9 Neanderthals Found, an 'Extraordinary Discovery'

Ancient landslide preserved fossils in caves near Rome
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2021 3:00 PM CDT
Remains of 9 Neanderthals Found, an 'Extraordinary Discovery'
A cave in Italy where Neanderthal remains were discovered.   (Emanuele Antonio Minerva/Italian Culture Ministry via AP)

A major new discovery at a familiar prehistoric site was announced Saturday by Italy. Archaeologists have found the remains of nine Neanderthal men in Grotta Guattari, prehistoric caves near the Tyrrhenian Sea between Rome and Naples that were discovered—accidently, by workers—in 1939. The nation's culture minister called the remains "an extraordinary discovery which the whole world will be talking about." The remains of two Neanderthals had already been found in the caves, "confirming it as one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man," the ministry said. Eight sets of remains have been dated to 50,000 to 68,000 years ago, the government said. One is put at more than 90,000 years old, France 24. A long-ago landslide preserved the contents of the caves.

"They are all adult individuals, except for one who may have been in his early teens," the excavation boss said. Animal remains have also been found at the site, including those of a large extinct bovine, the aurochs, per Reuters. The find indicates the Neanderthal population in the area was large. Humans' closest ancient relatives, the Neanderthals vanished about 40,000 years ago. The chief archaeologist in the area expects to learn much from the newly discovered fossils, per the New York Times. "Consider that the human skeleton is a formidable archive that tells us everything: their age, sex, height, what they ate, their genome, whether they had illnesses, how much they walked and even if they were able to have fun," he said. (More Neanderthals stories.)

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