The 9.7-million-year-old fossilized hominin species teeth discovered near Germany’s Eppelsheim have already posed countless questions about the earliest history of humankind. Photo: Mainz Museum of Natural History
A set of fossilized teeth from a pre-human species dating back 9.7 million years ago – a discovery with the potential to “rewrite human history" – have been found by archaeologists near Mainz, Germany.
The nearly 10-million-year-old teeth have been discovered in the town of Eppelsheim near Mainz, Western Germany, the Mainz Museum of Natural History has announced, as cited by DW.
The teeth have been discovered by researchers who were sifting through gravel and sand in the bed of the Ur-Rhine, the former course of the river Rhine.
The first ape fossils were discovered in the former bed of the Rhine as early as 1820, and remains from as many as 25 new hominin species have been found there since 2001.
The 9.7-million-year-old fossilized teeth from a hominin species have been found near the remains of an extinct genus of horse that helped date the teeth.
The dating results, however, have left the German archaeologists extremely baffled since the teeth do not seem to belong to any hominin species discovered to date in Europe or Asia.
Rather, they resemble the most those belonging to the early hominin skeletons of Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) and Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus), famously discovered in Ethiopia, Africa, who, however, lived several million years later.
Yet, the fossilized hominin teeth discovered near Germany’s Mainz are at least 4 million years older than Lucy and the other African skeletons.
The fossilized hominin teeth from Western Germany resemble those from Ethiopia but are at least 4-5 million years older. Photos: Mainz Museum of Natural History
The archaeologists found this discovery so puzzling that they postponed for a year the publication of their findings.
Thus, the first paper on the teeth of a hominin species that lived some 10 million years ago is to be published on Researchgate in a week’s time.
The German scientists are categorical that the hominin teeth found near Mainz are similar to the famous skeletons of Lucy and Ardi but predate them by several million years
“They are clearly ape teeth,” says lead archaeologist Herbert Lutz, as quoted by local news site Merkurist.
“Their characteristics resemble African finds that are 4 to 5 million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim," he adds.
“This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery,” the German scholar emphasizes.
The discovery has been announced at a news conference during which the Mayor of Germany’s Mainz, Michael Ebling, has declared that the hominin teeth discover would likely lead scientists to reconsider the earliest history of humankind.
“I don’t want to over-dramatize it, but I would hypothesize that we shall have to start rewriting the history of mankind after today,” Ebling has said.
“This is going to amaze experts,” Axel von Berg, regional archaeologist in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, has told the Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
He is positive that the 9.7-million-old hominin teeth are going to attract major international attention.
The nearly 10-million-year-old hominin teeth have been found in the former riverbed of the river Rhine. Photos: Mainz Museum of Natural History
The teeth are still being studied in detail, but as of the end of October they are to be exhibited for the public, first at the Rhineland-Palatinate state exhibition “vorZEITEN”, and then at the Museum of Natural History in Mainz, German daily Die Welt has reported.
In May 2017, an international research team from Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Canada, France and Australia announced that the discoveries of two roughly 7.2-million-old pre-human fossils found in Bulgaria and Greece demonstrated that the split of the human lineage occurred in the Balkans, and not in Africa, as conventionally thought.
The researchers have reached their conclusions based on the study of two fossils of Graecopithecus freybergi – a 7.24-million-year-old upper premolar discovered in Azmaka, an area near Chirpan in Southern Bulgaria, and a 7.175-million-year-old lower jaw found in Pyrgos Vassilissis, today in metropolitan Athens, Greece.
For the time being, there have been no comments as to whether and how the pre-human fossil finds from Bulgaria and Greece might be related to the newly found 9.7-million-year-old hominin teeth from the former bed of the river Rhine in Germany.