Three-dimensional digital models of the lower incisor from Riparo Bombrini (left) and the upper incisor from the Grotta di Fumane (right). © Daniele Panetta
Read aloud Did the teeth of Neanderthals or modern humans? So far, this assignment remained unclear and thus whether Neanderthals could have been involved in the development of the culture of the Aurignaciens. For in the midst of relics of this culture, the teeth were discovered .. Analysis results now show that only the modern man has produced this culture - because the approximately 40, 000 years old Biterchen come clearly from modern people. This now provides clues to their relationship to the Neanderthals and their extinction, the researchers say.

As Aurignacian archaeologists call a culture that developed about 42, 000 years ago in southwest and south central Europe. It was characterized by innovations in stone working and the production of bone tools as well as by the use of personal ornaments and jewelery. However, only two sites include human remains clearly attributable to the early Aurignacian: an incisor was discovered in Riparo Bombrini (Western Ligurian Alps, Italy), and an upper one in the Grotto di Fumane (Western Lessini Mountains, Italy) Incisor. In both cases they were milk teeth - from whom they came, but remained unclear.

Was only modern man innovative?

Stefano Benazzi from the University of Bologna and colleagues from the CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology in Pisa have now compared digital models of CT scans of the tooth from Riparo Bombrini with those of modern humans and tooth samples from Neanderthals. The main focus was on the characteristics of the various dental crowns, in particular the thickness of the enamel. The researchers came to the conclusion: The tooth from Riparo Bombrini once sat in the teeth of a modern man. The radiocarbon dating of the find also confirmed an age of about 40, 000 years.

Notes on the disappearance of Neanderthals

The owners of the teeth are now among the oldest known modern humans in the archaeological culture of the Aurignaciens, the researchers say. "This assignment of remnants of modern humans to the Protoaurignacia supports the assumption that the arrival of Homo sapiens on the continent has triggered the sinking of the Neanderthals, which disappeared a few thousand years later, " summarizes Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for evolutionary anthropology the meaning of the result.

Original work of the researchers:

  • Science: 10.1126 / science.aab0234
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