New study sheds light on Neanderthal tooth discovered in western Iran
A new study conducted by a team of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists from Germany, Italy, Iran, and Britain delves into the discovery of an in-situ Neanderthal tooth, which was discovered in 2017 in a rock shelter, western Iran.
The research is described in a paper in the online journal PLOS ONE that was published last Thursday. The tooth, which is a lower left deciduous canine that belongs to a 6 years old child, was found at a depth of 2.5 m from the surface of the Bawa Yawan shelter in association with animal bones and stone tools near Kermanshah.
Performed by senior Iranian archaeologist Saman Heydari-Guran based in the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, and his international fellows such as Stefano Benazzi, who is a physical anthropologist at the University of Bologna, analysis shows that the tooth has Neanderthal affinities.
Stone tools discovered close to the tooth belong to the Middle Paleolithic period and a series of C14 dating suggests the Neanderthal is between 41,000-43,000 years in age which is close to the end of the Middle Paleolithic period when Neanderthal disappeared in the Zagros. “Neanderthal extinction has been a matter of debate for many years. New discoveries, better chronologies, and genomic evidence have done much to clarify some of the issues. This evidence suggests that Neanderthals became extinct around 40,000–37,000 years before the present (BP), after a period of coexistence with Homo sapiens of several millennia, involving biological and cultural interactions between the two groups.However, the bulk of this evidence relates to Western Eurasia, and recent work in Central Asia and Siberia has shown that there is considerable local variation. Southwestern Asia, despite having a number of significant Neanderthal remains, has not played a major part in the debate over extinction” says Heydari-Guran who leads the Bawa Yawan excavation project. In a review of the present study, Fereidoun Biglari, a Paleolithic archaeologist at Iran National Museum, has said: “This recent discovery, along with other Neanderthal remains previously found in other parts of Zagros, including Shanidar Cave, Bisotun Cave, and Wezmeh Cave, indicate that Neanderthals were present in a wide geographical range of Zagros from northwest to west of this mountain range since at least 80,000 until about 40,000-45,000 years ago when they disappeared and Homo Sapiens populations spread into the region”. The Bawa Yawan is the second Neanderthal tooth that has been discovered in Iran. The first Neanderthal tooth was discovered in the Wezmeh cave near Kermanshah in 2001. Moreover, the discovery of the third tooth of the Neanderthal child was announced by a joint Iranian-French team that was discovered in Qal-e Kord near Qazvin in 2019. These discoveries show that Iran has a rich paleoanthropological record and the country can produce important data in the future.