New remains of Neanderthal man dating back 300,000 years found in Italy’s Ciota Ciara Cave

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Excavations conducted by the University of Ferrara at Ciota Ciara Cave (Borgosesia, VC) have yielded remains belonging to Neanderthal man dating back 300,000 years.

New remains of Neanderthal man dating back 300,000 years found in Italy's Ciota Ciara Cave
Credit: University of Ferrara

According to the press release, two teeth, a canine and a lower molar, discovered in the same stratigraphic levels where human remains had been found in 2019, an occipital bone (part of the posterior portion of the skull) and a second lower incisor, probably belonging to an adult individual of young age, were found in during the this year’s excavation campaign.




“These new remains represent some of the oldest finds of Homo neanderthalensis and make the Ciota Ciara Cave an incredible site that is a fundamental site for the reconstruction of the prehistoric population of North West Italy”, said Prof. Marta Arzarello of the Section of Prehistoric and Anthropological Sciences of Unife.

New remains of Neanderthal man dating back 300,000 years found in Italy's Ciota Ciara Cave
Credit: University of Ferrara

“The remains that we have found, especially the occipital bone, are therefore really fundamental in defining the evolutionary history of Man in Europe”, Arzarello adds. “On this bone there are some structures that define the Neanderthal species: the famous occipital bun (a prominent bulge or projection of the occipital bone at the back of the skull) and the soprainiac fossa (an elliptical depression or a dent in the back of the head) below that. These two structures begin to appear sporadically already in the ancestor of the Neanderthal, Homo heidelbergensis but become very defined and marked in the Neanderthal Man”.

New remains of Neanderthal man dating back 300,000 years found in Italy's Ciota Ciara Cave
Credit: University of Ferrara

“Although in the specimen found in the cave we notice the presence of an occipital bulge, this is little developed and much less marked than that present in Neanderthal individuals,” says Julie Marie Arnaud, paleoanthropologist of the section of Prehistoric and Anthropological Sciences. “It is therefore likely that this belongs to an archaic form of the Neanderthal species or even to a Homo heidelbergensis. Theories that will be verified through the interdisciplinary study that we will undertake in the coming months”.




The Unife research, thanks also to the collaboration with Italian and international research institutes, has made it possible to reconstruct the way of life of this prehistoric man who frequented the caves of Monte Fenera during the first phases of the Middle Palaeolithic, a period that extends from 300,000 years ago to about 35,000 years ago and during which time two of man species were present in Europe: Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis.

New remains of Neanderthal man dating back 300,000 years found in Italy's Ciota Ciara Cave
Credit: University of Ferrara

“The data that has emerged”, Arzarello concludes, “confirm that the cave was used in a first phase only as a shelter during the hunt and then for longer occupations, probably seasonal and then ending with a last occupation of short duration. Prehistoric Man exploited the local rocks for the production of tools and hunted the species present in the area such as deer, wild boar, chamois and rhinoceros. In some cases he collected better quality raw materials further away from the site and brought ready-made tools to Ciota Ciara. The analysis of the teeth of micromammals (small rodents), established that the climate was temperate, with an increase in aridity and lower temperatures in the lower levels. The remains of other carnivores were also found, such as the panther, lion, lynx, wolf, badger and marten, which probably occupied the cave during periods when man was not present.”

Source: Universita degli Studi di Ferrara [trsl. TANN, August 12, 2020]

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