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Early arrivals in Europe

Anatomically modern humans are thought to have arrived in Europe 44,000–42,000 years ago. Physical evidence for early humans is scarce, and these dates are based largely on studies of stone tool assemblages. Two papers published this week use the latest radiocarbon dating and morphological analysis techniques to reassess museum hominid samples. Higham et al . examine a human maxilla from the Aurignacian site at Kent's Cavern in the United Kingdom, discovered in 1927 and previously dated at around 35,000 years old, and arrive at an age of 44,200–41,500 years. The dental morphology of the jawbone indicates that its attribution as early human, rather than Neanderthal, is reliable. Benazzi et al . reanalyse two teeth from the Uluzzian site Grotta del Cavallo in southern Italy and conclude that they are definitively modern, not Neanderthal, and date to 45,000–43,000 years old. A further conclusion from this work is that the Uluzzian culture of southern Europe — always found stratigraphically below the Aurignacian signature culture of the modern humans — may represent the earliest modern humans in Europe rather than the last Neanderthals.

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