16 January 2019
'Incredibly rare' find in a submerged prehistoric forest
Archaeologists have found evidence of early human activity at a submerged prehistoric forest in the Western Isles (Scotland). Lionacleit in Benbecula is one of more than 20 recorded sites of ancient woodland that once grew in the islands. The remains included an early butchery site and stone tools used for preparing food.
Experts have described the discoveries at Lionacleit as 'extra special'. They found the remains of the area where animals had been butchered for food during studies of the site last year. Bone was also found with a piece of quartz from a stone tool and a quern stone, which was used for grinding food.
The Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion (SCAPE) Trust, a charity that works out of the University of St Andrews, was alerted to the remains by local resident Ann Corrrance Monk. Joanna Hambly, a research fellow at SCAPE, said: "An unexpected discovery during the fieldwork was the realisation that archaeological remains survived in the intertidal zone. These include a wall, the possible remains of sub-circular stone structures which could be houses, a quern stone and butchered animal bone associated with struck quartz tools. To find the remains of a butchery site is incredibly rare - the survival of a single action in prehistory preserved in intertidal peats."
Dr Hambly added: "These remains are all much closer to the beach than the forest, and are almost certainly much later in date. We don't know how old they are yet, but have submitted samples for radiocarbon dating."
The sub-fossil trees at Lionacleit are the remnants of woodland that was once widespread across the Western Isles. Sub-fossils are matter that has been partially rather than fully fossilised.
SCAPE said the forest was at its peak about 10,000 to 7,000 years ago and was a rich mix of birch, hazel, willow, aspen, rowan, oak, Scots pine, alder, ash and elm. From 6,000 to 4,500 years ago the woodland declined, and by about 2,800 to 2,500 years ago the isles "were more or less treeless", said SCAPE. Rising sea levels, a wetter and windier climate and human activity were all factors behind the island forest's decline.
The site at Lionacleit, along with others in the Western Isles, is at risk of coastal erosion. Dr Hambly said: "It would be impractical to preserve the sub-fossil trees or the archaeological remains in situ. The submerged woodland and the archaeology at Lionacleit have already given us a great deal of information about the past and we have only just started." She added: "When the radiocarbon dates have been processed, we will write up the story of Lionacleit and review what further research could be done at this fantastic site - or at similar sites."
Edited from BBC News (16 January 2019)
Bronze Age cremation pit uncovered in Scotland
The discovery of what appears to be a Bronze Age cremation pit under the centre of Cupar (Fife, Scotland) has been hailed as an archaeological find of national importance. Cremated bone was uncovered during the final day of a community excavation at East Moat Hill involving volunteers and experts. The remains were radiocarbon dated and found to be 4,000 years old.
Alastair Rees of ARCHAS Archaeology said: "The very last day of the excavation revealed some interesting deposits on the summit of the hill. A large, deep pit was revealed and a small investigative trench was excavated into this feature. At the base of the pit, a small cremation deposit was located."
He said his team was able to extract a small sample of the cremated bone which has been radiocarbon dated to approximately 1750 BCE, roughly the transition from the Early to the Middle Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago.
"Although only a small part of this large feature was investigated it is very likely that what was revealed is a Bronze Age cremation pit in the centre of Cupar," he said. "It is also highly probable that there will be other similar features located close to the pit already identified as these features are often found in small clusters."
There is already evidence that the area was a place of medieval assembly, where open-air councils were held and justice dispensed, until the 15th Century. Douglas Speirs, Fife Council archaeologist, said: "Prehistoric origins for early medieval places of assembly have long been postulated but to date only a couple of sites have revealed tangible evidence to support this assumption. The discoveries at Cupar add to this growing corpus of evidence and shed new light on our understanding of the very deep history of medieval open air court sites."
Some 20 volunteers worked with ARCHAS Cultural Heritage and AKD Archaeology to excavate four trenches across the hill during the project, funded by Historic Environment Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The findings will be presented at a free seminar on Thursday January 31, in the County Buildings, Cupar, at 7.30pm. To book places email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited from The Courier (15 January 2019)
15 January 2019
Ancient couple found in Harappan grave
Between 4500 and 2500 BCE, the bodies of a couple, believed to be married, were placed carefully side by side - with the the man's face turned toward the woman - in an ancient burial site of the Harappans, one of the world's earliest civilizations. Thousands of years later, in 2013, a team of Indian and South Korean researchers began excavation work in the necropolis now located in Rakhigarhi in a bid to extract DNA from the skeletal remains.
Archaeologists believe that the two skeletons, a young male and a female, were buried at the same time in the same grave; experts said evidence points at the couple being buried simultaneously or about the same time.
Although many settlements and cemeteries have been discovered and investigated, no couple's burials at Harappan cemeteries have been reported till date. Vasant Shinde, corresponding author of the research, and vice chancellor of Deccan College Deemed University, said that archaeologists in India have often debated about the historical meaning of joint burials.
He also said the Harappans - a civilization that flourished about 4,500 years ago - believed in life after death which explains the pottery and bowls found in the graves. "The pots may have contained food and water for the dead, a custom probably fuelled by the belief that the dead may need them after death. Hence, the contemporary view of life after death may actually be as old as 5,000 years," Shinde added.
In the past, a Harappan joint burial discovered at Lothal was regarded as a 'probable' instance of a widow's self-sacrifice as an expression of the grief over her husband's death, he said. "Other archaeologists claimed it was difficult to estimate the sexes of the individuals, and they may not have been a couple. Other than the contentious Lothal case, none of the joint burials reported from Harappan cemeteries till date have been anthropologically confirmed to be a couple's grave," he said.
The manner in which the individuals had been buried - with the male's face towards the female - could commemorate lasting affection even after death. "We can only infer, but those who buried the two individuals may have wanted to imply that the love between the two would continue even after death," he said.
"A couple's joint grave is not so rare in other ancient civilizations. Yet, it is strange that they were not discovered in Harappan cemeteries till now," Shinde said. The grave had burial pottery and a banded agate bead, probably part of a necklace. It was found near the right collar bone of the woman's skeleton. "It is plausible that two individuals died at the same time or almost the same time, and were buried together in the same grave," Shinde said.
Both skeletons were brought to the laboratory of the Deccan College for analysis after the field surveys were completed. Each skeleton's sex was determined after studying the pelvic region. Their ages at the time of death have been estimated to be between 21 and 35 years and the man's approximate height as 168 cm and the woman's as 158 cm. Researchers could not find any evidence of trauma or lesions in the skeletons.
Edited from The Times of India (9 January 2019), CNN (10 January 2019)
Hoard of Copper Age axes discovered in Bulgaria
A hoard of 6,500-year-old Copper Age axes and ax hammers - Europe's largest such find so far - has been discovered by accident near the town of Polkovnik Taslakovo, in Northeast Bulgaria.
The discovery of the hoard of prehistoric axes and ax hammers from the Chacolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) has just been announced by archaeologist Dimitar Chernakov. The prehistoric tool hoard contains a total of 22 tools, including 18 flat axes and 4 ax hammers, with a combined weight of 11.629 kilograms. These axes and ax hammers are made of alloy with a high content of copper which was cast into molds, and the tools are dated from 4,500 to 4,200 BCE.
"The discovered find is the largest [of its kind] in Europe so far. It is a testimony to the [development and sophistication] of the earliest metallurgy in human history," the Ruse Regional Museum of History says. "The axes bear hardly any traces that they were used which leads to the supposition that they were not meant for practical purposes but were an indicator of prestige, or were [were used as] means of exchange," the Museum adds.
In his paper, archaeologist Dimitar Chernakov explains that the prehistoric axes and ax hammers from Polkovnik Talaskovo belong to "the second/third phase of the cultural complex Kodjadermen - Gumelnița - Karanovo VI." The archaeologist says it cannot be ruled out that the copper axes might have been manufactured in some of the large metal processing centers of the prehistoric civilization on the western coast of the Black Sea such as today's Varna, Durankulak, and Sozopol. "[The axes were] then prepared and sent for distribution into the internal part of the Balkan Peninsula," he writes.
Chernakov reveals Europe's largest hoard of prehistoric copper axes and ax hammers was found back in 2013 by accident by local farmers plowing the fields, at a depth of about 1 meter. On top of the ax hoard, there was an egg-shaped limestone rock as well as fragments from pottery vessels.
However, according to archaeologist Vladimir Slavchev from the Varna Museum of Archaeology, who studied the site, the ceramics found there are from a later period, the Late Iron Age. The site has not been properly excavated, and the archaeologists are therefore unable to say for sure whether the ax hoard was part of a Chalcolithic layer. Four prehistoric settlement mounds are located in the area where the axes and ax hammers have been found so Chernakov points out it is possible that the hoard might be connected with some of those settlements.
The hoard of Copper Age axes and ax hammers has now been put on display for the first time to the public by the Regional Museum of History in the Danube city of Silistra.
Edited from Archaeology in Bulgaria (9 January 2019)
Bid to build replica Iron Age tower in Scotland
An archaeological charity is pushing ahead with an ambitious plan to construct a full-size replica of an Iron Age broch in Scotland. Caithness Broch Project has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise some of the money needed to cover the £20,000 cost of the design brief. It would be the first broch to be built in Scotland in more than 2,000 years. Caithness, where the replica would be built, has more broch sites than anywhere else in Scotland.
Caithness Broch Project was set up to raise awareness of the remains of more than 180 of the ancient stone-built towers in the area. Ruined brochs can also be found in other parts of the Highlands, including Glenelg, and in Orkney.
Kenneth McElroy, director with Caithness Broch Project, said: "The project design brief document will help to inform and refine a number of points concerning the project - from architectural design to sustainability. It is a vital component in the development of our plan to build the first broch in Scotland in over 2,000 years."
Hoskins Architects and Jura Consultants are working on the replica broch project.
Edited from BBC News (7 January 2019)
Beast-faced carvings found at Chinese prehistoric settlement
The distinctive, often beastly, patterns found on classical Chinese bronzeware may be thousands of years older than first thought, archaeologists said after finding similar designs carved into the stone walls of a prehistoric settlement in the country's northwest.
A team working at the Shimao archaeological site in Shaanxi province made the discovery during a recent excavation of the city's Neolithic remains, which are thought to date back to about 2,000 BCE. "The beast-face patterns found in Shimao might have had a significant influence on the motifs of China's Bronze Age," Sun Zhouyong, president of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, said in a report.
Researchers unearthed about 30 carvings at the site with designs similar to those found on the elaborately decorated bronze vessels of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BCE). While most of them featured a recurring geometric pattern, others were of monstrous faces, the report said.
Shimao, which covers about 4 sq km, is China's largest prehistoric archaeological site, comprising fortifications, palaces, houses, tombs and sacrificial altars. Discovered in 1976 it was declared a protected cultural heritage site 30 years later but was not thoroughly excavated until 2011. In 2013, archaeologists found the skulls of more than 80 young women in a mass grave near the city walls, which some experts believe might have been part of a sacrificial offering to mark the start of construction.
Researchers were working to find out whether there might have been a link between the people who carved the ancient stones and the craftsmen of the Zhou and Shang dynasties, the report said.
Edited from South China Morning Post (2 January 2019)
29 December 2018
Remains of baby born 5,700 years ago found in Argentina
Archeologists have found remains belonging to a male baby born 5,700 years ago in an excavation in Argentina's Mendoza city. An archeological team from the Natural Science Department of the National University of Cuyo found the skeletal remains in a region called 'Niño de las Cuevas [The child of the caves]' which was named after they found the remains of another child in 2015.
Alejandra Gasco from the archaeology team said they found the remains 1,5 meters away from where they discovered the previous set of remains. "It is quite surprising that another child was buried in the same area," he said. The experts were trying to find the sterile layer level of where they excavated the first remains in 2015. "We came across something special: a circle with carbonaceous sediment, similar to red clay. We managed to remove a 1-2 centimeter piece with the help of a brush. When we realized that this was the remnant of a jaw, we realized we had found the remains of a child. Following this, we asked for the necessary permissions from Juan Cornelio Moyano Nature and Anthropological Sciences Museum to continue excavation works," Gasco said.
Anthropologist Víctor Duran stated that the findings in 2015 made a big impact on research in the area, adding that the analysis made on the first findings shows that they are over 5,750 years old. Experts think that the remains found in the new excavation belong to the same period.
Edited from Daily Sabah (19 December 2018)
A Bronze Age regicide in Germany?
A group of archaeologists and forensic researchers in the eastern German city of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, announced that after reexamining the bones of the so-called 'Prince of Helmsdorf' they have concluded that he was murdered. The attack, carried out 3,846 years ago, is now the world's oldest known political murder.
The forensic examination took place at the urging of Kai Michel, who co-authored a new book on the Nebra Sky Disc with Saxony-Anhalt State Archaeologist Harald Meller. The two suggest that the Bronze Age Unetice culture, which produced the disc depicting the cosmos, was the first high culture to evolve north of the Alps.
Speaking of the importance of the examination, Kai Michel says: "Ultimately we are dealing with the only known remains of someone directly linked to the Nebra Sky Disc. And as far as we can tell, we have now found evidence of the oldest political assassination in history."
Although anthropologists inspecting the prince's bones in 2012 suspected signs of injury, they were unable to find conclusive evidence. But Frank Ramsthaler, deputy director of the University of Saarland Institute for Forensic Medicine, said: "We have been able to verify three clear injuries to the bones. There were likely more injuries, but all three of those we confirmed would have been lethal. The murder weapon may have been a dagger, the blade of which would have to have been at least 15 cm long."
Ramsthaler said the prince was likely stabbed by a powerful and experienced warrior who thrust his dagger through the prince's stomach and into his spine, as evidenced by a 6 mm wide and 3 mm deep wound in the eleventh thoracic vertebra. Ramsthaler says the intensity of the injury indicates that the prince would have been stabbed as he stood against the wall, or perhaps while lying on the floor. The forensic scientist says the stabbing would also have severed arteries, leading to certain death.
Archaeologist Meller says a second injury, which came from above and behind the collarbone, splitting the prince's left shoulder blade and likely seriously injuring veins and portions of the lungs, "suggests an experienced warrior." Although scientists will never be able to tell which of the injuries came first, they say that an arm injury would suggest that the prince may have been surprised by the attacker and tried to defend himself.
Meller, speaking to the issue of who may have killed the prince, said: "It must have been a trusted person close to him. Perhaps a relative, friend or body guard," adding, "The ruler was unsuspecting and surprised by the attack. It could well be that he, like Julius Caesar in ancient Rome, was the victim of a conspiracy."
The prince of Helmsdorf was buried in the Leubinger mound discovered by Friedrich Klopfleisch in 1877 and dated around 1940 BCE. It is regarded as one of the richest Early Bronze Age graves in the whole of Western Europe. Archaeologist Harald Meller announced that the full findings of research undertaken on the skeleton will be published in the first half of 2019.
Edited from DW (18 December 2018)
'New' recumbent stone circle identified on Aberdeenshire
A newly-identified Recumbent Stone Circle has been recorded on a farm in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), in the parish of Leochel-Cushnie. Despite being a complete stone circle that has obviously been known and respected by those who have farmed the area over the years, it has been unknown to archaeologists until now. The site was reported to Aberdeenshire Council's Archaeology Service by Fiona Bain, whose family have farmed in the area for generations.
Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, visited the site along with Adam Welfare, Alison McCaig and Katrina Gilmour from Historic Environment Scotland (Survey and Recording). While fitting the Recumbent Stone Circle model, this is a slightly unusual example, they say.
Describing the monument, Mr Welfare said: "In numbering ten stones it fits the average, but its diameter is about three metres smaller than any known hitherto and it is unusual in that all the stones are proportionately small. It is orientated SSW and enjoys a fine outlook in that direction, while the rich lichen cover on the stones is indicative of the ring's antiquity.""
Mr Ackerman added: "It is rare for these sites to go unidentified for so long, especially in such a good condition.""
Recumbent Stone Circles were constructed around 3,500-4,500 years ago and are unique to the north east of Scotland. Their defining feature is a large horizontal stone (the recumbent) flanked by two upright stones, usually situated between the south-east to south-west of the circle. They are well known and spread throughout the north east of Scotland, but it is rare to find a previously unrecorded one, especially in such a complete condition.
Ancient platform 'damaged' during Stonehenge tunnel work
Archaeologists have accused Highways England of accidentally drilling a large hole through a 6,000-year-old structure near Stonehenge during preparatory work for a tunnel. The drilling, which is alleged to have taken place at Blick Mead, around a mile and a half from the world-famous neolithic ring of stones, has enraged archaeologists, who say engineers have dug a three-metre-deep hole (10ft) through a man-made platform of flint and animal bone.
Highways England have said they are not aware of any damage to archaeological layers on the site caused by their work and will meet with the archaeological team led by David Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham.
Before the drilling incidents, archaeologists were concerned that the construction of a tunnel and a flyover near the site will cause the water table to drop, damaging remains preserved in water-logged ground. The Highways Agency agreed to monitor water levels as part of the project.
The 6,000-year-old platform through which a hole has been drilled preserved the hoof prints of an aurochs, giant prehistoric cattle that are now extinct.
Jacques said: "This is a travesty. We took great care to excavate this platform and the aurochs' hoofprints. We believe hunters considered this area to be a sacred place even before Stonehenge. These monster cows - double the size of normal cattle - provided food for 300 people, so were revered. It the tunnel goes ahead the water table will drop and all the organic remains will be destroyed. It may be that there are footprints here which would be the earliest tangible signs of life at Stonehenge. If the remains aren't preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built."
Blick Mead is part of the Stonehenge and Avebury Unesco world heritage. A Highways England spokesperson said: "We are not aware of any damage being caused to archaeological layers. We notified Prof David Jacques of the locations of our water table monitoring, and have adhered to guidelines in carrying out the work. Our assessments so far indicate that construction of the scheme will have no significant effects on the Blick Mead area, and we are undertaking this further hydrogeological investigation.
Edited from The Guardian (6 December 2018)
Owner of modern long barrow tomb must pay taxes on it
A British farmer who built the first new long barrow tomb in the UK in more than 5,000 years has been told that he must pay thousands of pounds in business rates on it. Tim Daw, the owner of the burial ground used by Pagans, has been told by the British Valuation Office Agency that he must pay between £4,500 to £5,000 a year in business rates for his burial mound where people pay to inter the ashes of their loved ones.
Long barrows were in widespread use in the early Neolithic period and examples still exist today, but the burial method fell out of use. Usually, church graveyards and burial grounds are exempt from the tax as they are seen as places of worship. But Mr Daw has been told that his long barrow is a commercial storage facility that must pay the tax. He said the decision means mourners visiting his tomb will have to 'pay to pray' and that the move discriminates against non-Christian forms of worship.
Mr Daw added: "I got an email from the business valuation office saying they considered my long barrow as a place for storage, like a warehouse you would store car parts in. Them describing it as 'storage' is demeaning to the families whose loved ones are buried here."
Responding to the decline in people wanting traditional Christian burials, Mr Daw decided to create the long barrow. He used conventional stone working techniques to create the unusual site at his farm in All Cannings, Wiltshire. The tomb is designed on an alignment that means the sun shines down the central chamber on the Winter Solstice.
The long barrow is about 220ft long and 20ft tall and has stone chambers with a series of shelves, called niches, where people pay to have their loved ones' ashes stored. It has 340 niches that can hold two or three urns; all of the niches are now reserved, although only 40 are currently filled with urns. Mr Daw puts any money he takes towards the maintenance of the long barrow and has said that anyone, whatever their religion, is welcome to visit it.
Edited from The Telegraph (29 November 2018)
World's oldest dated rock art in Southeast Asia
Cave paintings in remote mountains in Borneo have been dated to at least 40,000 years ago, and include a painting of what seems to be a local species of wild cattle - possibly the world's oldest dated example of figurative art.
Indonesian and French archaeologists discovered a vast assemblage of prehistoric artworks in limestone caves atop densely forested peaks in the remote interior mountains of East Kalimantan in the 1990s - rare paintings of animals, but thousands of hand stencils - yet little other evidence for human occupation in the caves.
The team proposed at least two distinct phases of art production, the first characterised by reddish-orange hand stencils and large figurative paintings of animals, and a later phase characterised by dark purple hand stencils. During this phase the artists also painted tattoo-like designs on the wrists, palms, and fingers of some, and some were linked by motifs resembling tree branches or vines.
In the early 2000s the team dated part of a cave formation that had grown over the top of a hand stencil. Their results implied an age of at least 10,000 years for the underlying artwork.
A recent paper suggests the paintings are far older. Uranium-series dates obtained from calcium carbonate samples collected in association with cave art from six sites provides the first reliable estimates for the approximate date of rock art production.
The earliest image is a large reddish-orange painting of an animal similar to the wild banteng still found in the jungles of Borneo, and has a minimum age of 40,000 years. The reddish-orange hand stencils are similar in age, suggesting the first rock art style appeared between about 52,000 and 40,000 years ago. The oldest dark purple paintings date to about 21,000 to 20,000 years ago. A human figure this colour was created at least 13,600 years ago. These dates imply a major change within Borneo's rock art culture about 20,000 years ago during the Last Glacial Maximum.
Similar rock art appeared around 40,000 years ago in the Maros caves of Sulawesi, a vital stepping-stone between Asia and Australia just across the Makassar Straight west of Borneo. Sulawesi has never been connected to the nearby Eurasian continent. Borneo is now Earth's third-largest island, but for most of the ice age it was connected to Eurasia.
Edited from The Conversation (7 November 2018)
Santorini excavation yields impressive new finds
Significant new discoveries have been made during ongoing excavations at Akrotiri, on the Aegean island of Santorini, about 120 kilometres north of Crete and 230 kilometres southeast of Athens, Greece.
Inside rectangular clay chests were a marble protocycladic female figurine, two small marble protocycladic collared jars, a marble vial, and an alabaster vase. The chests were uncovered beneath rubble in a large building known as the "House of Desks", near an important public building decorated with rich murals at the southern edge of the settlement where the golden ibex now on display at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira was found in a clay chest beside a heap of animal horns in 1999.
According to archaeologists, the latest finds are undoubtedly related to the perceptions and beliefs of the ancient society of Thera - the official name of Santorini — and pose key questions about the ideology and possibly the religion of that prehistoric society.
Prehistoric art hints at lost Indian civilisation
The discovery in the Konkan region of Maharashtra of thousands of rock carvings may hold clues to a previously unknown civilisation. Etched on flat rocky hilltops, most remained unnoticed for thousands of years hidden beneath layers of soil and mud, but a few were were considered holy and worshipped by locals.
A stunning variety of animals, birds, human figures, and geometrical designs are depicted. Their similarity to those found in other parts of the world leads experts to believe they may be about 12,000 years old.
A group of explorers led by Sudhir Risbood and Manoj Marathe began searching for the images after observing a few. Many were found in village temples and played a part in local folklore. They found petroglyphs in and around 52 villages, but only around five villages were aware that the carvings existed.
Mr Risbood: "We walked thousands of kilometres. People started sending photographs to us and we even enlisted schools in our efforts to find them. We made students ask their grandparents and other village elders if they knew about any other engravings. This provided us with a lot of valuable information."
The pair have also played an important role in documenting the petroglyphs and lobbying authorities to study and preserve them.
Maharashtra state archaeology department director Tejas Garge says the images appear to have been created by a hunter-gatherer community which was not familiar with agriculture: "We have not found any pictures of farming activities. But the images depict hunted animals and there's detailing of animal forms. So this man knew about animals and sea creatures. That indicates he was dependent on hunting for food."
While some of the petroglyphs depict animals like hippos and rhinoceroses which are not now found in this part of India, Doctor Shrikant Pradhan, a researcher and art historian at Pune's Deccan College who has studied the petroglyphs closely, says "Most of the petroglyphs show familiar animals. There are images of sharks and whales as well as amphibians like turtles."
Edited from BBC News (1 October 2018)
Oldest human remains in Poland
The oldest human remains discovered in Poland are about 115,000 years old. They are finger bones of a Neanderthal child which were digested by a large bird, and found in a cave. Previously the oldest human remains from Poland were three Neanderthal teeth estimated to be 52,000 to 42,000 years old, from a different cave.
The bones are small and very poorly preserved. DNA analysis is not possible, but Professor Pawel Valde-Nowak, from the Institute of Archeology of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow says "we have no doubts that these are Neanderthal remains, because they come from a very deep layer of the cave, a few metres below the present surface. This layer also contains typical stone tools used by the Neanderthal."
The bones were discovered a few years ago mixed up with animal bones. It was not until this year that researchers discovered that they were human bones.
Professor Valde-Nowak: "This is a unique discovery. Only single fragments of fossil bones belonging to relatives of modern man have survived to our times in Poland." There are no remains in Poland of human species from before the Neanderthal, such as Homo erectus.
Neanderthals probably appeared in Poland - as in all of Europe - about 300,000 years ago. Their oldest stone tools are over 200,000 years old. Thousands have been discovered in southern Poland; mainly knife-scrapers - tools with a cutting and scraping function. The northern part of present Poland was covered by a continental glacier.
Professor Valde-Nowak says there is no evidence that modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed in Poland. Neanderthals in Europe mostly died out about 35,000 years ago, but a 2006 article in the journal 'Nature' claimed the existence of 24,000 year old remains.
Research shows Neanderthals had much in common with us; archaeologists are often unable to distinguish between Neanderthal and modern human tools. Neanderthals also created of some of the rock drawings known from European caves, estimated to be over 64,000 years old.
Edited from Science in Poland (5 October 2018)