By: Arye Green
Israeli researchers have discovered ancient human teeth in Manot Cave near the Sea of Galilee, suggesting that humans migrated from Europe to the Levant some 40,000 years ago. This finding sheds light on a significant era in the region’s history.
The teeth are believed to have belonged to humans of the Aurignacian culture, which first appeared in Europe some 43,000 years ago and is known for having produced bone tools, artifacts, jewelry, musical instruments and cave paintings.
For years, researchers believed that modern man’s entry into Europe led to the rapid decline of the Neanderthals, either through violent confrontation or struggle for scarce food sources.
However, recent genetic studies have shown that Neanderthals did not vanish but rather assimilated into modern human immigrant populations. This new study adds significant evidence to substantiate this theory.
Through cutting-edge dental research on six human teeth discovered at Manot Cave in the Western Galilee, the researchers have shown that Aurignacians arrived from Europe in modern-day Israel some 40,000 years ago – and that these Aurignacians were comprised of both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.
The researchers performed in-depth lab tests using micro-CT scans and 3D analyses on four of the teeth. Two teeth showed a typical morphology for Homo sapiens, one tooth showed features characteristic of Neanderthals and the last showed a combination of Neanderthal and Homo sapiens features.
This combination of Neanderthal and modern human features, suggesting the common origin of some population groups, has to date been found only in European populations from the early Upper Paleolithic period.
The research was conducted by Dr. Racheli Sarig, of Tel Aviv University’s School of Dental Medicine and the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Bio-History Research, in collaboration with Dr. Omry Barzilai of the Israel Antiquities Authority and colleagues in Austria and the U.S.
Dr. Sarig explained the traits through which the team was able to recognize the origin of the tooth in question.
“The structure, shape and surface bumps of the teeth provided important genetic information. We were able to use the external and internal shape of the teeth found in the cave to associate them with typical hominin groups: Neanderthal and Homo sapiens,” she said.
“Following the migration of European populations into this region, a new culture existed in our region for a short time, approximately 2,000-3,000 years, and then disappeared for no apparent reason; now we know something about their makeup,” she added.