Neanderthal who 'fell down a well' gives scientists oldest ever DNA sample

By admin
17 April 2015

Archaeologists have been working for more than 20 years to extract the "Altamura Man" from the rock deep inside an Italian cave.

The human remains -- an intact skull and jumbled pile of bones -- were discovered when spelunkers spotted the skull staring out at them from the limestone walls cave of Lamalunga, near Altamura in southern Italy in 1993, CNN reports. It was decided that the bones should not be completed removed -- scientists feared trying to chisel them out of the cave's calcified grip would destroy them.

But now, after over two decades of trying, researchers have been able to extract the DNA from a piece of the remains. Analysis of the DNA, taken from the right shoulder blade, found that the fossil was a Neanderthal.

Neanderthals are the closest relatives of modern humans. They are thought to have lived in what is now Asia and Europe, until their extinction about 40 000 years ago. Neanderthals' DNA differs to ours by just 0,12%.

Analysis of the calcite crusted around the Neanderthal's skull has shown the bones to be 128 000 to 187 000 years old. Scientists have surmised that the ancient man fell into a prehistoric well and died in the caverns of thirst or hunger. Researchers hope they will be able his DNA will help them find out more about the evolution of mankind. Fascinated by ancient man? Get the chance to 'meet' a Neanderthal and YOU's Ice Age Exhibition! Go here for more info.

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Sources: news.com.au, livescience.com, cnn.com

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