ROME – Italian archaeologists have discovered the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals in a cave near Rome, shedding new light on how the Italian peninsula was populated and under what environmental conditions.
Italy’s Culture Ministry announced the find on Saturday, saying it confirmed that the Guattari Cave at San Felice Circeo was “one of the most important places in the world for Neanderthal history.” A Neanderthal skull was discovered in the cave in 1939.
Fossilized bones include skulls, skull fragments, two teeth, and other bone fragments. The oldest remains date from 100,000 to 90,000 years ago, while the other eight Neanderthals are believed to date from 50,000 to 68,000 years ago, the culture ministry said in a statement.
The excavations, which began in 2019, concerned part of the cave that had not yet been explored, including a lake first noted by anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc, who is credited with the discovery of the Neanderthal skull in 1939.
The Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, called this discovery “an extraordinary discovery that will make the world talk”.
Anthropologist Mauro Rubini said the large number of remains suggest a large population of Neanderthals, “the first human society we can talk about.”
Archaeologists said the cave had perfectly preserved the environment from 50,000 years ago. They noted that fossilized animal remains found in the cave – elephants, rhinos, and giant deer, among others – shed light on the region’s flora and fauna and its climatic history.