A very rare piece of bone, 450,000 years old found in the Tautavel cave (Pyrénées-Orientales) has been identified as belonging to a human being, the research center of the famous prehistoric site. Numerous fragments of several men of Tautavel members of the genus Homo - who lived 450,000 years ago have already been discovered for more than half a century. This time, it is a piece of fibula a little less than six centimeters in length, found eighteen years ago, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), by archaeologist Christian Perrenoud, responsible for research on this site, which has been systematically excavated since 1964.
According to him, it is very rare to find human bones from this period, in particular because the men who lived more than 100,000 years ago did not bury their dead . Also, it is difficult to know if a piece as small as this piece of fibula belongs to a human being.
According to Mr. Perrenoud said, when you have a piece that is 40 centimeters long, you will tell yourself right away that it probably belonged to a human. But when you have a small piece that is a few centimeters long, knowing that there are 122 fossil species described in the cave, we are very careful before claiming that it comes from man. This is one of the reasons why it took eighteen years to identify it. You have to check it, see that it comes from humans and not from another animal.
This verification is made in particular by various comparisons with the skeleton of the current man, which still resembles, in spite of everything, his distant ancestors, but also with other bones already identified as being human.
He said, in this case, it is a fragment of fibula. We have others on the site with which we could compare it. We even have another piece that could belong to the same individual.
On the other hand, no DNA research is possible on such ancient fossils.
M Perrenoud said, we are not yet able to go beyond 80,000 years maximum with DNA, even if there are examples in Spain where we have managed to go a little further. The Caune de l'Arago, or Tautavel cave, about twenty kilometers north-west of Perpignan, has already yielded a very large number of fossils which have made it possible to reconstruct the evolution of faunas, flora, landscapes and Mediterranean climates between 100,000 and 700,000 years ago.