Excavations in Serbia Raising New Questions About Early Humans in Europe
The Sicevo Gorge is a rugged, picturesque river canyon cut into the Kunivica plateau in southeastern Serbia. Containing a nature park, it draws visitors for its beautiful landscape, the result of the occurrence and interaction of geological, geomorphological and hydrological phenomena. But it also contains a series of caves, at least one of which has yielded evidence of human presence during the shifting glacial times of the Ice Age of present-day Europe. The Gorge was placed on the map of popular attention when, in 2008, anthropologists uncovered a partial human mandible (lower jaw), complete with three teeth, while excavating in a small cave.
"We were looking for Neanderthals," said Dr. Mirjana Roksandic, a participating paleoanthropologist with the University of Winnepeg and a leading research team member. "But this is much better."
What they discovered was a fossil specimen, definitely a human that, at least in terms of morphology, predated the Neanderthal and may have had more in common, physically, with Homo erectus, thought by many scientists to be the precursor to Neanderthals and Homo sapiens (modern humans). Initial dating indicated that the fragment was between 130,000 and 250,000 years old, but a recent series of tests conducted by Dr. Norbert Mercier at the University of Bordeaux produced a date of "older than" 113,000 years BP, significantly younger by comparison....
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