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Remains of Neanderthal Infant Are Rediscovered

Anthropology

September 07, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

An anthropologist has found the nearly complete skeleton of a Neanderthal infant in a French museum, where it was filed away in a drawer and forgotten after its discovery 88 years ago. The skeleton is of a child thought to be 4 months old or younger who died 40,300 years ago. The fossil is missing only the shoulder blades and pubic bone, making it one of the most complete sets of Neanderthal remains. The find, detailed in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, is important because it will allow scientists to further trace how Neanderthals developed as individuals, said Bruno Maureille of France's Universite Bordeaux.

The bones were found in 1914 in sediment under a rock overhang along the Vezere river in an area of southwestern France rich in prehistoric sites. A 1921 study detailed the find, but the bones later vanished after they supposedly were sent to Paris. Only two of the bones ended up in Paris. The rest, some still encased in sediment, remained at the National Museum of Prehistory in the town of Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, where they sat until Maureille rediscovered them in 1996 while cataloging the museum's archives. He later tracked down the arm and leg bone that had been separated from the skeleton.

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