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'Extraordinary': Fossils of nine Neanderthals unearthed in Italy cave

Monday, May 10th 2021, 9:19 pm - The date of one of the fossils can be traced as far back as 90,000 to 100,000 years ago, and the remaining pieces are thought to be 50,000 to 68,000 years old, according to Italy's cultural ministry.

The unravelling of nine Neanderthal fossils is being hailed as a significant discovery that the "whole world will talk about."

That's according to Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, who made the remarks in a news release with the agency's announcement Saturday. The fossils were unearthed in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, about 88 kilometres southeast of Rome, Italy.

“An extraordinary discovery that the whole world will talk about...because it enriches research on Neanderthals. It is the result of the work of our superintendency together with universities and research bodies, truly an exceptional thing," said Franceschini.

SEE ALSO: Ancient human species may have gone extinct because of climate change

The findings included the fossils of skulls and skull pieces, two teeth and other bone fragments. The date of one of the fossils can be traced as far back as 90,000 to 100,000 years ago, and the remaining pieces are thought to be 50,000 to 68,000 years old, according to Italy's cultural ministry.

Neanderthal card sito 1/Italian Culture Ministry Nine Neanderthal fossils were unearthed in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, about 88 kilometres southeast of Rome, Italy. (Italian Ministry of Culture)

EXCAVATIONS BEGAN IN 2019

The diggings began in 2019 in a part of the cave that had never been investigated including what anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc called a “pond” due to the presence of water in the winter months.

The systematic research was handled by the Superintendence of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for Frosinone and Latina, in collaboration with the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

The Ministry of Culture called the Guattari Cave "one of the most significant places in the world for the history of Neanderthals." A Neanderthal skull was also discovered in the cave in 1939.

Neanderthal card sito 33/Italian Culture Ministry The diggings began in 2019 in a part of the cave that had never been investigated. (Italian Ministry of Culture)

Mauro Rubini, director of the SABAP anthropology service for Frosinone and Latina, said in the release that the discovery will "shed an important light on the history of the population of Italy."

"Neanderthal man is a fundamental stage of human evolution. He represents the apex of a species and is the first human society we can talk about," said Rubini.

WORK ON HISTORICAL REMAINS CONTINUES

Work is underway to build a paleoecological picture of the Pontine plain between 125,000 and about 50,000 years ago, according to the ministry, a time period when the Neanderthals frequented the Lazio region.

The cave has been able to keep the environment from 50,000 years ago fully intact. In addition to the Neanderthals, other fossilized remains found in the cave include elephant, rhinoceros and giant deer, among others.

Neanderthal card sito 5/Italian Culture Ministry The date of one of the fossils can be traced as far back as 90,000 to 100,000 years ago, and the remaining pieces are thought to be 50,000 to 68,000 years old. (Italian Ministry of Culture)

"Biological analyzes and genetic research will allow us to reconstruct the vegetation, climate and environment in which our ancestors lived. Isotope analyzes will allow us to reconstruct the diet of the animal species examined and the ancient diet of Neanderthal man," the ministry said in the release.

Thumbnail courtesy of Italian Ministry of Culture.

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