A tooth and remains of bones allowed researchers to discover that Homo sapiens has been present in Europe for longer than previously thought (photo of illustration) - Musée de Tautavel

A tooth and bone fragments found in a cave in Bulgaria have revealed the existence of the oldest Homo sapiens in Europe known to date thanks to new dating work published this week by a team of international researchers. The analysis of the vestiges taken in the cave of Bacho Kiro, in the north of the country, dates back to around 45,000 years the presence on the European continent of Homo sapiens, also called modern man, describe two articles published in the reviews Nature and Nature Ecology and Evolution .

The tooth of the oldest Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens of Europe (Bacho Kiro, Bulgaria) 45,000 years old @nature @NatureEcoEvo @HelsFewlass pic.twitter.com/3U7pORbGXb

- Jean-Jacques Hublin (@jjhublin) May 11, 2020

"This is the period of the first arrival of Homo sapiens on European territory from the Middle East and its cohabitation with the Neanderthals which lasted for 5,000 to 10,000 years," said Nikolay Sirakov, one of the excavators and professor at the Institute of Archeology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. “Science estimated that these events took place over a period from 38,000 to 42,000 years ago. We have proven that they took place earlier, ”he added.

The transition from Neanderthal to Homo sapiens under study

The remains of Bacho Kiro "are the oldest known European example attesting to the presence of Homo sapiens in the Upper Paleolithic. Arrived in Europe around 45,000 years ago, modern men have gradually taken the place occupied by Neanderthals, "explains the College of France, two professors of which belong to the international team that worked on these dates.

The transition period between the populations of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens continues to be the subject of many questions and this new dating brings new elements. A first dating of the carbon 14 remains suggests an age range between 46,940 and 43,650 years. A second method, based on the analysis of mitochondrial DNA extracted from bones, gives estimates ranging from 44,830 to 42,616 years, specifies the college of France.

"These results show that modern humans extended to the middle latitudes of Eurasia before 45,000 years ago. Straddling the distribution area of ​​Neanderthals, they therefore exerted an influence on their behavior before replacing them, ”explains the institution again. The Bacho Kiro site, known since the 1930s and laid out for tourist visits, had been the subject of new excavations since 2015.


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