Italian archaeologists have discovered the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals in a cave near Rome, shedding new light on how the Italian peninsula was populated and under what environmental conditions.
Italy’s Ministry of Culture announced the find Saturday, saying it confirms that the Guattari cave in San Felice Circeo is “one of the most significant sites in the world for Neanderthal history.” A Neanderthal skull was discovered in the cave in 1939.
The fossilized bones include a skull, skull fragments, two teeth and other bone fragments. The oldest remains date from between 100,000 and 90,000 years ago, and the remaining eight Neanderthals are believed to date from 50,000 to 68,000 years ago, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.
The excavations, which began in 2019, have touched a part of the cave that has not yet been explored, including a lake first noted by anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc, who is credited with the discovery of a Neanderthal skull in 1939.
Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini called the find “an outstanding discovery that the whole world will talk about.”
Anthropologist Mauro Roubini said the large number of remains indicates the existence of a significant population of Neanderthals, “the first human society we can talk about.”
Archaeologists said the cave perfectly preserved the setting 50,000 years ago. They noted that the fossilized animal remains found in the cave – elephant, rhinoceros, giant deer and others – shed light on the flora and fauna of the area and its climatic history.