The Altamura Man


In 1993, a team of speleologist probing a karst borehole in the Altamura Murgia region, near the Italian city of Altamura, stumbled upon a near-complete skeleton of an archaic hominid, one of the many species of the family Hominidae belonging to the genus Homo, that walked the earth before modern human beings evolved. Usually, specimens such as this are removed and relocated to a lab or museum so that they can be studied. But when researchers tried to remove the skeleton, they found it had become embedded in the rock. Droplets of calcified limestone, that dripped from the cave’s ceiling for thousands of years, had not only fused the skeleton to the cave walls but had also formed a thick layer over the bones giving the “Altamura Man” a ghoulish appearance.


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It is assumed that the unfortunate hominid fell into a well and remained trapped there, eventually dying of starvation. For years, scientist debated on its age and species he belonged to. The skeleton bears a number of Neanderthal traits, particularly in the face and the back of the skull. However, it also possesses features that usually aren’t seen in Neanderthals — for instance, its brow ridges were even more massive than those of Neanderthals. The difficult location in which the skeleton lies and the inability to move it made analysis difficult.

But recent studies have showed beyond doubt, that the Altamura Man is a Neanderthal, and had lived between 150,000 and 250,000 years ago. Researchers were even able to extract DNA from a bone sample. These are the oldest DNA ever recovered from a Neanderthal. By using sophisticated photogrammetry and laser scanning of the encrusted skeleton, combined with data from the DNA analysis, scientist have now created a hyper-realistic model representing how the Altamura Man might have looked like.


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Sources: Discovery News / Wikipedia / LiveScience

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