A team of archaeologists has revealed new findings on a set of bones that is believed to belong to the oldest hominid fossil in Poland.
The discovery was made at the Jaskinia Ciemna cave in southern Poland’s Malopolska region, where researchers found finger bones belonging to a Neanderthal child who lived about 115,000 years ago. According to TheFirst News, this makes the bones more than twice as old as those of the previously recognized oldest hominid in the area. Prior to the find, the oldest Neanderthal remains were estimated to be about 52,000- to 54,000-years-old.
The researchers believe that the Neanderthal child whose remains were found was aged about 5-to-7-years-old at the time of its death, and might have been killed by an animal, possibly a large bird of prey that attacked the child and chewed on its hand after it died. Paweł Valde-Nowak, a professor at the Jagiellonian University of Kraków, explained that the remains were originally found a number of years ago when the archaeologists explored an area several feet below the present-day cave’s floor and found the hominid bones mixed in with bones from other animals.
Though the origins of the bones were not immediately clear, it took years of “detailed analysis” before the researchers determined that the remains did indeed belong to a Neanderthal fossil. As further noted by The First News, this was further backed up by the Neanderthal stone tools found nearby at the cave site.
Although the 115,000-year-old bones found in Poland are said to be the oldest ever discovered in the country, the remains are fairly recent compared to a set of fossils found in Morocco and believed to be the oldest hominid bones ever discovered. According to the Atlantic, a multinational team of researchers concluded in 2017 that the bones and stone tools unearthed in Jebel Irhoud, a cave located about 60 miles west of Marrakesh, might be about 315,000-years-old.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology scientist Phillipp Gunz told the Atlantic that his team’s discovery in Jebel Irhoud was a sign that Homo sapiens might have existed much earlier than what was once thought.
Meanwhile, The First News noted that there might be earlier examples of hominid bones in Poland, as Homo sapiens‘ close relatives likely arrived in the country about 300,000 years ago, or around the same time that they first set foot on European soil in general. The publication added that these hominids lived in the southern part of Poland at a time during the Ice Age when glaciers were covering most of the country.