Postcard from... Orce, Spain

 

Archeologists in Spain claim they have discovered what would be Europe’s first known human remain, a child’s milk tooth, measuring 1.3 centimetres by two, and dating from 1.4 million years ago.

The molar of the 10-year-old child – nestling inside a glass case last week in Granada when it was presented to the media – was found in the cave of Orce in the northern side of the province as long ago as 2002.

A 10-year dating process in Paris and Barcelona laboratories then ensued, culminating in an article on the tooth which, the archeologists said, is supposed to appear shortly in the prestigious Journal of Human Evolution magazine.

The tooth is now thought to date from an era between that of Homo Antecessor (1.2 million years ago) and Homo Georgicus (1.8 million years ago).

But those thinking it could lend support to the claim by another archeologist, the late José Gibert, pictured, that a bone he found in the same cave in 1982 belonged to another early human from 1.3 million years ago, the so-called “Orce Man”, may be mistaken.

At last week’s press conference, Orce Man was written off by one professor as being part of a female ruminant – a mammal digesting plant-based food. The comments provoked a strong reaction from José’s son, the geologist Luis Gibert, who insisted to Spanish news agency EFE that Orce Man was exactly that: a man.

Either way, should Orce Man have existed in human form, nobody yet has questioned that the milk tooth on show last week could have belonged to one of his ancestors.

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