ARCHAIC NEANDERTHAL FROM SOUTHERN ITALY CALLED ALTAMURA MAN ANALYZED AFTER 20 YEARS AND DEEMED THE OLDEST NEANDERTHAL EVER FOUND
Altamura Man was discovered in a cave in southern Italy in 1993 by cave explorers. The finding was reported to researchers at the University of Bari. The remains were embedded in rock and were covered in a thick layer of calcite
It was thought that excavating the remains would cause irreparable damage and thus, they have remained in situ for over twenty years, leaving researchers to rely on casual observation for their studies. For that reason, there was some debate initially about morphology and age. Subsequent study led to a consensus that the remains (only the head and part of a shoulder are visible) were that of an archaic Neanderthal, of a Homo genus believed to have been widespread in Europe 200,000 to 40,000 years ago.
The researchers with the current project began their work six years ago—a tiny part of shoulder bone (and stalactite fragments) was extracted and brought back to the lab for study. Analysis by Uranium-thorium dating revealed that the calcite was formed 172,000 to 130,000 years ago—during the penultimate quaternary glaciations period. The team also reports that samples of DNA have also been retrieved from the sample, and because of the age, represent the oldest such samples ever recovered from Neanderthal remains.
It is believed that Altamura Man wound up in such a peculiar spot after falling in a well and getting stuck—it is assumed he starved to death, or died from lack of water intake. The researchers next plan to test the DNA sample to see if it can be sequenced—if so, they are hopeful it might reveal new details about the evolution of hominids in general and perhaps more about the early history of the Neanderthal.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-04-altamura-yields-oldest-neanderthal-dna.html#jCp