Half-Million-Year-Old Human Jawbone Found

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Scientists have unearthed a jawbone from an ancient human ancestor in a cave in Serbia.

The jawbone, which may have come from an ancient Homo erectus or a primitive-looking Neanderthal precursor, is more than 397,000 years old, and possibly more than 525,000 years old. The fossil, described today (Feb. 6) in the journal PLOS ONE, is the oldest hominin fossil found in this region of Europe, and may change the view that Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relatives, evolved throughout Europe around that time.

“It comes from an area where we basically don’t have anything that is known and well- published,” said study co-author Mirjana Roksandic, a bioarchaeologist from the University of Winnipeg in Canada. “Now we have something to start constructing a picture of what’s happening in this part of Europe at that time.”

Cave diggers

In 2000, Roksandic and her colleagues began excavating a cave in Balanica, Serbia, that contained ancient archaeological remains. While they were away, rogue diggers secretly dug a deeper pit within the cave, hoping to do their own excavations. Because the site had already been disturbed, the team then decided to probe deeper below the pit’s bottom, Roksandic told LiveScience.

About 5.9 inches (15 centimeters) below the surface the team found an ancient jawbone fragment with three molars still intact.

Using several dating techniques, the team determined the fragment was definitely older than 397,000 years and perhaps older than 525,000 years.

Written By: Tia Ghose
continue to source article at news.discovery.com

12 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome! But, I wish they hadn’t used the word human in the title. A lot of anti-evolution people will jump all over this, “See! Humans have been around forever! There is no evolution!”

  2. Thanks, bluebird……we can point to this as an example of what real science does, and how it works. I’d love to hear the responses of Young Earth Creationist types to the detailed analysis. “We don’t agree with this.” “What, specifically, do you not agree with ?”

  3. In reply to #5 by rod-the-farmer:

    Thanks, bluebird……we can point to this as an example of what real science does, and how it works. I’d love to hear the responses of Young Earth Creationist types to the detailed analysis. “We don’t agree with this.” “What, specifically, do you not agree with ?”

    rod, you know what they’ll say. Let discoveries like this spark your imagination like it did when you were a kid. Do you remember daydreaming or fantasizing that you were on an dig and stumbled onto the biggest find of the century?

  4. Or they would say, “Let’s ‘discuss’ it in class and then the children can make their own minds up about it”!!!

    In reply to #5 by rod-the-farmer:

    Thanks, bluebird……we can point to this as an example of what real science does, and how it works. I’d love to hear the responses of Young Earth Creationist types to the detailed analysis. “We don’t agree with this.” “What, specifically, do you not agree with ?”

  5. In reply to #9 by Ben_Keyes_780:

    After a long day hunched over specimens in studying human osteology, that made my day!
    But I have seen nicer.

    Heh… the last one I saw was “live”! I generally avoid doing root-end surgeries in the area of the mental foramen because of the risk of damaging the nerve that emerges there. But, when there is nothing else to do, I will dissect down to the fibrous sheath around the nerve. Once it’s identified, it’s relatively easy to protect it with a retractor.

    You would think a structure with a name including “mental” would be located up on the cranium, not down by the chin. I’ve heard some explanations of this, but can’t verify any of them. Anyone know?

    Steve

  6. In reply to #5 by rod-the-farmer:

    Thanks, bluebird……we can point to this as an example of what real science does, and how it works. I’d love to hear the responses of Young Earth Creationist types to the detailed analysis. “We don’t agree with this.” “What, specifically, do you not agree with ?”

    That’s right; pin them down every time.

    For a start, ask for an explanation of the recurrunt laryngeal nerve. That should be a laugh.

    S G

  7. We should not stop reminding ourselves that the study of human origins though based on increasing evidence is nonetheless based on scarce evidence. Each new piece of the “jigsaw” is fascinating in its own right and adds (albeit minutely) to the big picture. That big picture becomes ever more complex such that even the classical definition of a “species” becomes moot with the widening variety of contemporaneous specimens. Unfortunately the political nature of research funding almost forces researchers into extravagant hypothesising when really what is required is more of an “isn’t that wonderful – I can’t wait for the next bit – and the bit after that – and maybe we can come to an understanding that is not so much subject to speculation but is more the sum of an indisputable accumulated body of evidence.” Meanwhile, like I assume the rest of you, I’m trembling with excitement as this episode ends and I can barely contain myself in anticipation of the next.

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