Other human bones from the same cave -- a temporal bone, a facial skeleton and a partial braincase -- are still undergoing analysis, but are likely to be the same age. The jawbone was found in February 2002 in Pestera cu Oase, the "Cave with Bones," located in the southwestern Carpathian Mountains. The other bones were found in June 2003.
The results on the jawbone will be published the week of Sept. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS; www.pnas.org) Online Early Edition. A report on the other bones will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Human Evolution (www.sciencedirect.com). The finds should shed much-needed light on early modern human biology.
"The jawbone is the oldest directly dated modern human fossil," said Trinkaus, the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Anthropology. "Taken together, the material is the first that securely documents what modern humans looked like when they spread into Europe. Although we call them 'modern humans,' they were not fully modern in the sense that we think of living people."
To determine the fossils' implications for human evolution, Trinkaus and colleagues performed radiocarbon dating of the jawbone (dating of the other remains is in progress) and a comparative anatomical analysis of the sample. The jawbone dates from between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago, placing the specimens in the period during which early modern humans overlapped with late surviving Neandertals in Europe.
Most of their anatomical characteristics are similar to those of other early modern humans found at sites in Africa, in the Middle East and
Contact: Susan Killenberg McGinn
Washington University in St. Louis