I travelled to Transylvania last year and spent some time in the newly minted anthro-capilal of Romania. I was lucky enough to brush shoulders and prep tools with paleoanthropologists working on a new find that changes what we know about early human activity in Eastern Europe.
If Van Helsing were poking around Transylvania these days, chances are he'd be more likely to be looking for the decaying remains of 35,000 year old humans than blood drinking vampires. Romania's dark history extends back way past the days of Vlad. Seems vampires and ghouls aside, something darker and much more interesting lurks.
The remains of a man, woman and teenage boy, the first Romanian family if you will, tell the most complete picture of what our ancestors were like some 35,000 years ago.
International scientists have been carrying out further analysis to get a clearer picture on the find, said anthropologist Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University in St. Louis.
But it's already clear that, "this is the most complete collection of modern humans in Europe older than 28,000 years," he told The Associated Press. "We are very excited about it," And they have reason to be. The find is changing perceptions about modern humans.
Romanian recreational cavers unearthed the remains of three facial bones last year, and gave them to Romanian scientists. Romanian scientists asked Trinkaus to analyze the fossils, and he traveled to the Romanian city of Cluj this week with Portuguese scientist Joao Zilhao , a fossil specialist.
Included in the find was a jawbone belonging to a male around 35-years in age. It was found alongside a partial skull and teeth from another male, likely his son or perhaps another relative, around 15-years old. The bone fragments were near a temporal bone to a woman of unspecified age.
"This was 25,000 years before agriculture. Certainly they were hunters," said Trinkaus . He said the bones were discovered in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains . Trinkaus said the humans would have had religious beliefs, used stone tools, and a well-defined social system and lived in a period in during which early modern humans overlapped with late surviving Neanderthals in Europe.
The humans survived because the area was ecologically variable being close the Banat plain and close to the mountains. A team of international scientists from the United States , Norway , Portugal and Britain will return to the cave to continue their field work next year.
Look out Van Helsing, there are new kids in town.