The ancient Altamura Man reveals his Neanderthal secrets

This is the Altamura Man. And he’s old!

Discovered in an Italian cave in 1993, his odd skull had essentially grown over time to become part of the cave, calcite budding from its features. New results now show that it could easily be 150,000 years old or more.

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Altamura man is a fossil skeleton of the genus Homo found over 20 years ago in a cave in Apulia. He dates back to 150,000 years ago and contains the most ancient DNA of a Neanderthal ever extracted so far. Awesome!

Experts have been touchy about whether the Altamura Man’s skeleton should be removed for study. But recently, researchers led by Giorgio Manzi at the Sapienza University got permission to take a small piece of his shoulder bone.

Uranium–thorium analysis place his age between 128,000 and 187,000 years old. The Neanderthal had likely fallen into the hole and died of starvation all those years ago.

Moreover, the scientists were also able to extract DNA from the bone. It’s actually the oldest Neanderthal DNA ever collected.

The next step is likely sequencing that genetic material, though that is much easier said than done. Because Neanderthal DNA is so similar to that of humans, a single particle of human skin could contaminate the results.

This ancient DNA could yield some answers to how humans evolved, but it won’t give them up easily

Well this jawbone fossil has rewritten human evolution!

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