Posted on May 4, 2009

Revealed: Face of First European As Fragments of 35,000-Year-Old Skull Are Made Flesh

Daily Mail Reporter, May 4, 2009

This is the face of the first early European human which has been painstakingly constructed by scientists from bone fragments.

The man or woman–it is still not possible to determine the sex–lived 35,000 years ago in the Carpathian Mountains that today are part of Romania.

Their face was rebuilt in clay based on an incomplete skull and jawbone discovered in a cave where bears hibernated.

Forensic artist Richard Neave made the model based on his measurements of the pieces of bone and his knowledge of how facial tissues sit on the skull.

Forensic Scientist Richard Neave reconstructed the face based on skull fragments from 35,000 years ago

It was created for TV show The Incredible Human Journey about the origins of the human race and evolution, which will be screened on BBC next Sunday.

Anthropologist Alice Roberts will introduce the series and currently has the head sitting on her desk.

‘It’s really quite bizarre. I’m a scientist and objective but I look at that face and think “Gosh, I’m actually looking at the face of somebody from 40,000 years ago” and there’s something weirdly moving about that,’ she told the Independent.

‘Richard creates skulls of much more recent humans and he’s used to looking at differences between populations,’ she added.

‘He said the skull doesn’t actually look European, or Asian, or African. It looks like a mixture of all of them. And you think, well that’s probably what you’d expect of someone who was among the earliest populations to come to Europe.’

Potholers found the jawbone of what has been dubbed the ‘first modern European’ in 2002 in the south-west of the Carpathian Mountains.

Using radiocarbon analysis, scientists have dated them to between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago.

Europe was then occupied by both Neanderthal man, who had by then been in the region for thousands of years, and anatomically-modern humans–Homo sapiens.

Modern humans first arrived in Europe from Africa.

The skull appears very like humans today, although there are some remaining traits including the very large teeth.

Erik Trinkaus from Washington University, Missouri, said: ‘Taken together, the material is the first that securely documents what modern humans looked like when they spread to Europe.’