The literal caveman found by scientists at the bottom of a sinkhole was there so long his bones were completely fused with slow-growing stalactites of the cave. It was only recently confirmed that the unfortunate man was a Neanderthal, and not a more recent version of humanity.
The cave is in the south of Italy, close to Altamura, earning him the name ‘Altamura Man’ in scientific circles. They believe that he tumbled in 1,500 centuries ago and became wedged in the rocks, eventually starving to death. As time passed his skeleton was encompassed by the cave.
Altamura Man was not confirmed to be a Neanderthal until recently, after several universities in Europe conducted DNA research on a small fragment of the skeletal shoulder bone. Prior to the DNA sequencing, many scientists believed that Altamura Man belonged to one of the other classes of human evolution. The DNA evidence is almost 100,000 years older than any previous Neanderthal DNA research.
Scientists now believe that further study may reveal a treasure trove of information regarding mankind’s ancestors.
‘Altamura Man is an incredible treasure,” according to Girogio Manzi a palaeoanthropologists who was in charge of research of the project at the Sapienza University of Rome. He added,
‘We hope that this fossil skeleton will become a key for a virtuous combination of scientific research, protection of our heritage and its promotion and development.’
‘Overall, our results concur in indicating that it belongs to Homo neanderthalensis, with some phenetic peculiarities that appear consistent with a chronology ranging from 172 ± 15 ka to 130.1 ± 1.9 ka.
‘Thus, the skeleton from Altamura represents the most ancient Neanderthal from which endogenous DNA has ever been extracted.’