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Ancient bones found in Bulgarian cave are oldest evidence of modern humans in Europe

Ancient bones found in Bulgarian cave are oldest evidence of modern humans in Europe

The oldest bones of Homo sapiens ever found in Europe have been discovered in Bacho Kiro Cave in central Bulgaria, says the publication in journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Cave Bacho Kiro has long been known to be a rich deposit of Palaeolithic fossils in Europe. The excavations in that place have been taking place for a century. The excavations dated by the 1970s were crowned by the success. The archaeologists have found fragmentary human remains that were subsequently lost, researchers explain in a new paper.

The recent findings have proven spread of modern humans in Europe, however, it is a difficult timeline for researchers to reconstruct. In fact, it is owing to a scarcity of sufficiently ancient remains that have been identified in the fossil record.

Now, the chronology of this mysterious transition during the Initial Upper Palaeolithic period has come into clearer view, thanks to the discovery and dating of Homo sapiens remains and other artefacts buried deep within an archaeological site Bacho Kiro.

When modern humans did show up, though, our arrival ultimately sealed the fate of the indigenous Neanderthals who called Europe home before us, as we then proceeded to swiftly replace them over the course of the next several thousand years.

“Most Pleistocene bones are so fragmented that by eye, one cannot tell which species of animal they represent,” says human evolution researcher Frido Welker from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

According to experts, using a mass spectrometry technique called ZooMS helped to find protein sequences matching Homo sapiens from hundreds of unidentified bone and tooth fragments. In addition, the researchers got five hits dating back to the Initial Upper Palaeolithic.

The combination of methods incorporating both radiocarbon dating and sequencing of mitochondrial DNA allowed estimate the fossils’ age. The archaeologists suggest these ancient humans likely occupied the cave from about 45,820 to 43,650 years ago, although some remains could date as far back as 46,940 years ago.

“Therefore, to our knowledge, these bones represent the oldest European Upper Palaeolithic hominins recovered to date,” the authors explain in one of two new papers describing the finds.

Commenting on the findings from Bulgarian cave, the researchers noted the human remains. A huge range of stone tools, along with bone artefacts from 23 different animal species were found. Among those artefacts are shaped pieces such as pendants made from the teeth of cave bears, reminiscent of designs known to have later been produced by Neanderthals in what we now call France.