Monday, 25 May 2009
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.
It seems vampires and ghouls aside, something darker and much more interesting lurks in that eastern belly. I travelled to Transylvania last year and spent some time in Cluj, the newly minted anthro-capital 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.
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, shedding a bit of light on a black box in history. 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.
It is 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.
They also found a jawbone that belonged to a man who could have been around 35. Silhao also found part of a skull and teeth belonging to a teenage male, and female temporal bone.
"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.
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 and they look to be very, very interesting.