46,000 years old human bones found from a cave in northern Bulgaria. This is the earliest known evidence of Homo sapiens. It is 2,000 years older than evidence from Italy and the UK. The time that modern humans overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe and other parts of Eurasia is difficult to establish. This is due to the scarcity of sufficiently ancient remains that have been identified in the fossil record. The recent remains found in the archaeological site called Bacho Kiro Cave in central Bulgaria can help experts in this context.
Bacho Kiro has a rich deposit of Palaeolithic fossils. A number of a number of excavations took place in the 20th century. But the fragmentary human remains that were retrieved were subsequently lost. The recent excavation found a tooth and four bone fragments. These were identified as broadly human based on their anatomical features. A combination of methods incorporating both radiocarbon dating and sequencing of mitochondrial DNA were used to estimate the fossils’ age.The researchers suggest these ancient humans likely occupied the cave from about 45,820 to 43,650 years ago, although some of the remains could date as far back as 46,940 years ago.In addition to human remains, the researchers also uncovered a huge range of stone tools, bone artefacts from 23 different animal species and shaped pieces such as pendants made from the teeth of cave bears. These designs were known to have later been produced by Neanderthals.
The paper was published in the Nature and Nature Ecology & Evolution.