This may be the oldest part of modern humans in Europe, or something rare

An ancient jawbone once thought to belong to a Neanderthal may force a rethink of the history of modern humans in Europe.

A new analysis of the fractured lower jaw reveals that it has nothing in common with other Neanderthal remains. Alternatively, it may belong to A wise man — and because it dates from 45,000 to 66,000 years ago, it may be the oldest known piece of human anatomy on the European continent.

The bone itself was found in 1887 in the city of Banyoles in Spain, which gave it the nickname. Since then, scientists have studied it quite extensively, dating it to a time frame in the late Pleistocene when the area that is now Europe was inhabited mostly by Neanderthals (Neanderthal).

This, and the ancient shape of the bone, led scientists to the conclusion that the banyul actually belonged to Neanderthals.

The lower jaw has been studied over the past century and was long thought of as Neanderthal based on its age, location, and the fact that it lacked one of the diagnostic features of A wise man: chin,” says paleontologist Brian Keeling of Binghamton University in the US.

Jawbone Banyoles. (Gron et al., J Home. Evol2006)

Keeling and colleagues conducted a comprehensive investigation of the bones using a process called 3D morphometric analysis. This is a non-invasive protocol that involves going over the shape of the bone in exhaustive detail, mapping its features and comparing them to other remains.

They took high-resolution 3D scans, and used them to not only study the bones, but to reconstruct the missing pieces. Then they compared Banyolis to the lower jaw of Neanderthals and modern humans.

“Our results found something surprising,” says Keeling. “Baniols did not share distinct Neanderthal traits and did not overlap with Neanderthals in their general morphology.”

She looked more consistent with the jawbones of our own branch of the family tree, except for one detail: the absent chin.

Since the chin is considered a defining feature of A wise man Compared to ancient humans, this was problematic. In addition, Banyoles also shared features with ancient hominins that inhabited Europe hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The researchers compared the bone to a bone from an early modern human from about 37,000 to 42,000 years old whose remains were found in Romania. It is best known for having Neanderthal features, but it also has a chin.

Analysis of the jawbone’s DNA showed that the DNA included sequences from a single Neanderthal ancestor who lived four or six generations ago – which likely explains its mixed features.

Since Banyoles does not have Neanderthal features, the team concluded that its odd shape was unlikely because the individual was a hybrid.

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compared with the previous one A wise man Bones from Africa showed that the chin of these individuals is less pronounced than what we have now.

So there are two possibilities. It was either Banyoles a A wise man From a previously unknown group that coexisted with Neanderthals in late Pleistocene Europe. Or was it a hybrid between A wise man From this unknown group and an ancient human who has not yet been identified.

One thing is for sure: Pagnol was not a Neanderthal.

There’s only one way to solve the puzzle, the researchers say — try to extract some DNA from a bone or a tooth, and then scavenge it.

“If Banyols is really a member of our species, this prehistoric human would represent the most ancient A wise man ever documented in Europe,” Keeling says.

Research published in Journal of Human Evolution.

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