ROM (AP) – Italian archaeologists have discovered the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals in a cave near Rome, shedding new light on how the Italian peninsula was populated and under what environmental conditions.
The Italian Ministry of Culture announced the discovery on Saturday and confirmed that the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo is “one of the most important places in the world for the history of the Neanderthals”. A Neanderthal skull was discovered in the cave in 1939.
The fossilized bones include skulls, skull fragments, two teeth, and other bone fragments. The oldest remains date from 100,000 to 90,000 years ago, while the other eight Neanderthals are believed to date from 50,000 to 68,000 years ago, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.
Excavations, which began in 2019, affected a portion of the cave that had not yet been explored, including a lake first discovered by anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc, who is credited with discovering the 1939 Neanderthal skull.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini called the result “an extraordinary discovery that will be the talk of the world”.
Anthropologist Mauro Rubini said the large number of remains suggests a significant population of Neanderthals, “the first human society we can speak of”.
Archaeologists said the cave perfectly preserved the environment 50,000 years ago. They found that fossilized animal remains in the cave – including elephants, rhinos and giant deer – shed light on the area’s flora and fauna and its climatic history.