The first Europeans: Bust Created from fragments of a fossil

5th May 2009

Quote: This clay sculpture portrays the face of the earliest known modern European – a man or woman who hunted deer and gathered fruit and herbs in ancient forests more than 35,000 years ago. It was created by Richard Neave; one of Britain’s leading forensic scientists, using fossilized fragments of skull and jawbone found in a cave seven years ago.

His recreation offers a tantalizing glimpse into life before the dawn of civilization. It also shows the close links between the first European settlers and their immediate African ancestors. It was made for the BBC2 series The Incredible Human Journey. This will follow the evolution of humans from the cradle of Africa to the waves of migrations that saw Homo sapiens colonize the globe.

The head is based on remains of one of the earliest known anatomically modern Europeans. The lower jawbone was discovered by potholers in Pestera cu Oase, the “cave with bones”, located in the southwestern Carpathian Mountains of Romania in 2002. The rest of the fragments were found the following year. The bones were carbon-dated to between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago when Europe was occupied by two species of human.

They were the Neanderthals, who had arrived from Africa tens of thousands of years earlier, and the more recent modern humans, also known as Cro-Magnons. Although the skull is similar to a modern human head, it has a larger cranium, is more robust and has larger molars. Fossil experts are also unsure if the skull was male or female.

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