Scientists in Spain said in 2007 that they have
found a tooth from a distant human ancestor that was more than
one million years old.
The tooth, a pre-molar, was discovered in June
2007 at the Atapuerca site in northern Spain's Burgos Province.
It represented Western Europe's 'oldest human fossil remains',
according to a statement which was released by the Atapuerca
Foundation. The foundation was awaiting final results before
publishing its findings in a scientific journal.
Several caves containing evidence of prehistoric
human occupation had been found in Atapuerca. In 1994 fossilised
remains called Homo antecessor ('Pioneer Man') - believed
to date back 800,000 years - were unearthed there. Until then,
scientists had thought that Homo heidelbergensis, dating
back 600,000 years, were Europe's oldest inhabitants.
Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, co-director of
research at the site, stated at the time that the newly discovered
tooth could be as much as 1.2 million years old.
The find also provided anatomical evidence of
hominids that fabricated tools more than one million years ago.
It was not possible at the time to confirm to which species the
tooth belonged, but initial analyses allowed for the supposition
that it was an ancestor of Homo antecessor, which probably
meant Homo ergaster.
The tooth appeared to come from an individual
which was aged between twenty and twenty-five years old. There
seemed to be little doubt, from the geological level in which the
tooth was found, that it belonged to the oldest European found to
Fossil finds in Georgia in the Caucasus so far
represented the oldest evidence of humans anywhere in Europe.
Digging at the medieval town of Dmanisi, eighty kilometres (fifty
miles) south-west of Tbilisi, has yielded skulls of Homo
georgicus, a species which seems to have been an off-shoot of
Homo erectus, which are 1.8 million years old.
In general, the use of Homo ergaster describes a species
of hominid in Africa, but when examples of the same species
leave Africa they are generally referred to as Homo erectus,
although this is not a hard or fast rule - this example belongs
to Turkana Boy, otherwise known as Nariokotome Boy, the most
complete skeleton found to date and a perfect example of Homo
ergaster of about 1.5 million years ago