Pyrénées-Orientales : exceptional discovery of a milk tooth of 560 000 years

A team of archaeologists, volunteers, franco-Spanish discovered Monday night at the Caune of Arago a milk tooth dating from 560 000 years ago, a “fossil” exceptional”, said Tuesday the research centre of Tautavel (Pyrénées-Orientales). After scans Tuesday morning, the laboratory of the site has identified the tooth as belonging to a member of the human species, probably Homo heidelbergensis (a kind of Homo erectus, european, ancestor of neanderthal). “The tooth would be that of a child between 5 and 6 years”, explained to AFP Tony Knight, paleo-anthropologist at the University of Perpignan and the centre for research in Tautavel, “because he still had his milk teeth, but she was already well-worn”.

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The fossil is an incisor of higher milk dating from around 560 000 years – 5,000 years ago, near-, or 100 000 years before the famous Man of Tautavel in which the skull was found on the same site in 1971. The discovery of the object is “exceptional”, because for this period the human remains are extremely rare, even if the “4 or 5 teeth of the same period” have already been extracted on the site of the Caune of Arago. “No one has ever discovered another upper incisor of milk. The simple fact of describing it is information”, detailed Tony Knight. “Then, of course, to an amateur it seems to be very accurate, but for us it is very important”.

The site of the Caune of Arago, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world

For the anthropologist, this discovery will “we learn a lot of things about the study of the behaviour of men”, the team trying since a long time to determine what the function of the cave where was found the tooth. So far, the researchers hesitated between “a halt to hunting, with a few men and women who would not have remained for a long time”, or “an occupation of longer duration, with families”. The dentde milk could solve the mystery.

The fossil is the 151st remains human discovered on the site of the Caune of Arago, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world. About 600 000 objects have already been retrieved in a half-century of this cave, particularly conducive to archaeological work due to its shape in the bowl that retains the sediment.

The site still has a number of exciting discoveries to be delivered : thanks to the core samples and dating, the archaeologists already know that there are traces of human occupation dating back to 690 000 years ago. According to Tony Knight, these remains are located just 5 meters under the place where was discovered the tooth. But they will not be extracted “before 15 years” at least.

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