A joint effort by research teams from the Max Planck institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and the University of Leiden (Netherlands) have dredged up a Neanderthal skull fragment from the North Sea. According to a press bulletin from the Max Planck Institute this area of the North Sea used to be a dry lowland plain and that Stone tools of Neanderthals and large quantities of mammoths and other Ice Age animals have been trawled up from the bottom of the of sea regularly. However, this is a first time researchers have found fossils of actual Neanderthals themselves. The first Dutch hominin fossil was a skull fragment including a characteristically thick Neanderthal eyebrow ride.
The skull and brow fragment shows striking resemblance to a skull of the Neanderthal found at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in France in 1908. A high resolution CT scan of the of the estimated 60,000 year old French Neanderthal skull along with the skull fragment from the Zeeland ridges were superimposed together with amazing uniformity. The University of Leiden’s website says comparison with other Neanderthal skulls has set the age at between 40,000 and 100,000 years old.
The Max Planck Institute’s press release also said that “there is a small cavity in the bone fragment caused by a benign tumor that was probably present from birth. Research into the chemical composition of the bone reveals that his diet primarily consisted of meat, which is very characteristic for Neanderthals. The full research results are soon to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution.”
From 16 June to 27 September 2009, the fossil can be seen as part of the exhibition ´Neanderthal from the North Sea´ at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands.