An international team of archaeologists have discovered the oldest human fossil ever found in Portugal, and one of the oldest in Europe, a skull that is about 400,000 years old.
Led by João Zilhão, the archaeologists found the skull in a cave in Aroeira, near Torres Novas in the centre of the country. He presented their conclusions in a study published in this week’s edition of the bulletin of the US National Academy of
“It is the oldest (human) fossil found in Portugal, and one of the oldest in Europe”, João Zilhão told Lusa News Agency.
“We had never found a human fossil from the Pleistocene (Ice age) period, which goes from about 2.5 million years ago up until just 11,500 years ago, so far west in Europe.”
The archaeologist added that one of the most exciting things about the fossil is that “it is very well dated and is now the benchmark to interpret other more complete fossils that are not so well dated.”
The cave also turned up animal remains and stone tools such as axes.
“The Aroeira skull is the oldest human fossils ever found in Portugal and it shares some characteristics with other fossil from the same period that have been found in Spain, France and Italy”, said archaeologist Ralf Quam, from the University of Binghamton, in the USA.