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Neanderthal child's tooth found in Gorham's Cave complex

Neanderthal child's tooth found in Gorham's Cave complex
  • This hugely important discovery was made in Vanguard cave and experts think the child may have been killed by hyenas

The Gorham’s Cave complex in Gibraltar, which was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site almost exactly a year ago, is a gift that just keeps on giving in terms of historical importance.

This week it was confirmed that a strange tooth which had been recently discovered in Vanguard cave was a Neanderthal child’s upper right canine milk tooth. The child would have been aged about four or five. The area of the cave in which the tooth was discovered was not at a level where the Neanderthals would have been living, but was the lair of a spotted hyena, which could suggest that the child had been caught and killed by the animals, although at this stage that is just a working theory.

The tooth was found during the first excavation to be carried out at Gorham’s Cave since it was designated a World Heritage Site last year. The excavations will continue in Gorham’s and Vanguard caves until mid-August as planned, but in view of this extraordinarily important find the focus is likely to be on the same level in Vanguard.

The Gibraltar Museum is responsible for excavations at the site, and it contains interesting items which have been found there, as well as lifesize figures of a Neanderthal mother and child.

Unesco has officially registered the Gorham’s Cave complex as “an exceptional testimony to the occupation, cultural traditions and material culture of Neanderthal and Early Modern Human populations through a period spanning more than 120,000 years.” It was used for about 100,000 years and is situated on the east side of the Rock.

The site is of major significance in understanding the global story of human evolution and adaptation, and after 27 years of investigation a wealth of information has been obtained on where and how Neanderthals lived and behaved, what plants, birds and animals they were familiar with and ate and where they acquired materials for stone tools. For further information, visit www.gibmuseum.gi.