Early Humans in Southeast Europe Were of a Different Sort, Say Researchers

Newly conducted dating of a human mandible fossil discovered in 2008 in the Mala Balanica cave in southern Serbia has revealed that the human species to which it belonged featured a morphology (form and structure) that significantly departed from the pattern of features of early humans who inhabited what is today Western Europe during the same time period.

Considered a remain from what is now suggested to be the oldest hominin (human-related) species found in the Balkans of Eastern Europe, its age is now placed between 397,000 and 525,000 years old based on the application of electron spin resonance (ESR), uranium series isotoptic analysis and infrared/post infrared luminescence dating. These cutting-edge dating techniques are thought, used in combination in this instance, to provide a highly reliable date range for the fossil found. The new testing and study* was conducted by an international team of researchers that included William Jack Rink of McMaster University, Canada, Dušan Mihailović, University of Belgrade, Serbia, and Mirjana Roksandic, University of Winnipeg, Canada. Mihailović and Roksandic were both involved in the initial discovery of the ancient mandible (scientifically labeled “BH-1″) in 2008. The new date range corresponds to a time when a human species called Homo heidelbergensis was present in Western Europe and an early stage in Neanderthal evolution. Homo heidelbergensis is suggested by many scientists to be a possible progenitor to Neanderthals or humans, or possibly a common ancestor.

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