The discovery was made on June 30 at the Sima del Elefante archaeological site, in Serra de Atapuerca, in northeastern Spain. According to the foundation that operates this site, paleontologists have been working there since 1978.
The foundation explained in a press release that this fossil is about ten centimeters long, and is “a portion of the face of a human being estimated to be about 1.4 million years old.”
At this Atapuerca site, in 2007, a jawbone of at least 1.2 million years old was discovered, which to date is considered the oldest human ancestral fossil in Europe.
“It is natural that we are making these dates” to complete this first estimate, Jose Maria Bermúdez de Castro, co-director of the Atapuerca Project, said at a press conference.
The researcher insisted, however, that “it is reasonable and reasonable to believe that (this piece of the face) is older”, as it was discovered in a layer of earth located “under the layer in which the jaw appeared at a distance of two meters” in 2007. .
The dating will be carried out at the National Center for the Investigation of Human Evolution (Cenieh), in Burgos, 10 kilometers from Atapuerca, and should last between six and eight months, according to Bermúdez de Castro.
Cenieh’s analysis may allow, according to the foundation, to determine which human species this piece belongs to, and to better understand how humans evolved and evolved on the European continent.
Until now, paleontologists have not been able to determine with certainty the species to which the jawbone discovered in 2007 belonged. The fossil may correspond to the species called Homo antecessor, discovered in the 1990s.
“It is very likely that the new fossil of Sima del Elefante is related to this jaw and that it belongs to one of the first peoples to colonize Europe,” the Atapuerca Foundation announced in a statement. “If that is the case, we will eventually be able to identify the human race in Sima del Elephant,” he added.
Serra de Atapuerca’s exceptionally rich deposits have been designated a World Heritage Site since 2000 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Thousands of fossils and human tools have been discovered at this site, including a 1.4 million-year-old broken stone discovered in 2013.
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