German archaeologists have unearthed a set of fossilised teeth, which are 9.7 million years old and hold a great and ancient mystery.
Archaeologists found the fossilised dental remains in a former riverbed of the river Rhine – close to the town of Eppelsheim near Mainz – and soon realised there was something highly unusual going on.
In fact, this seemingly simple discovery – made after painstakingly sifting through sand and gravel – may well have the potential to completely rewrite human history as we know it.
The ancient teeth were puzzling because they didn’t seem to belong to any species found in either Europe or Asia.
The closest resemblance is to ‘Lucy’ (Australopithecus afarensis) and ‘Ardi’ (Ardipithecus ramidus), very early hominin skeletons found in Ethiopia.
The teeth were dug up close to the remains of a long extinct genus of horse, which helped the team to figure out the age of the teeth.
Strangely, these teeth predate ‘Lucy’ and ‘Ardi’ by at least four million years, making them extremely mysterious.
Speaking with German News Outlet Merkurist, head of the archaeology team Herbert Lutz made the following statement:
They are clearly ape-teeth.
Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim.
This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery.
Local archaeologist Axel von Berg claimed this new discovery will ‘amaze experts’, while generating plenty of attention.
The find has already caused great excitement within the area, which has long been an important site for archaeological discoveries.
Twenty-five new species have been discovered within the bed of the Ur-Rhine since 2001 alone, with the first ape fossils being unearthed way back in 1820.
The mayor of Mainz, Michael Ebling, spoke out during a press conference about the magnitude of this new discovery:
I don’t want to over-dramatise it, but I would hypothesise that we shall have to start rewriting the history of mankind after today.
LOL! ? Exactly, you don't want to over-dramatise it. Re-write. Check. Human history. Check. Don't over-dramatise. Check. pic.twitter.com/4kOPSB2JxQ
— Adele K #GuitarMusic (@adelekgtrmusic) October 20, 2017
The current understanding of human history is based on the idea of modern humans evolving out of east Africa, some 400,000 to 200,000 years ago. These early modern humans then proceeded to disperse across the globe around 70,000 years ago.
However, this new breakthrough could well challenge the current consensus on the ‘out of Africa’ theory, forcing scientists to reconsider our very origins.
Fossil evidence has long shown how great apes were living in Europe millions of years ago.
However, this could well be the first confirmed case of hominins – a species which is closely related to modern humans – on the European continent.
A thorough examination of the teeth will be completed by the end of October. At this point, the teeth will be displayed at the Museum of Natural History in Mainz for ancient history buffs to wonder at.
Scientists have been left so baffled by this shock find, they put off publishing for a whole year. However, the first paper on the matter is expected to be published to Researchgate next week, with many more secrets still to be unlocked.
We are living in very interesting times indeed, and there is so much yet to uncover about our distant ancestors…
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.