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560,000-year-old tooth found in southern France

Tautavel Man's skull
Tautavel Man's skull DR/Luna04

Two students found a human tooth estimated to be 560,000 years old in the southern French village of Tautavel last week. Christian Perrenoud, engineer in geoarcheology at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, was present during the excavation. He told RFI's Gilda Di Carli how this tooth found at La Caune de l'Arago archeological site contributes to discoveries made in previous years.

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The European Centre for Prehistoric Research confirmed details about the discovery Tuesday, which has taken the place of the oldest piece of human remains found at La Caune de l'Arago.

The Tautavel Man, which was first uncovered in 1971, is estimated to be 450,000 years old.

The new discovery fills the gap between the period of theTautavel Man, the richest in terms of human remains, and 800,000 years ago, during which time only three teeth have been found, explained Perrenoud.

There seems to be a twist of fate surrounding the excavators, one of whom is only 16 years old.

"The funny thing is that Camille's mother was one of the excavators in 1979 when the skeleton [of the Homme de Tautavel] was found," he told RFI.

Camille was accompanied by another student, Valentin, who is in his twenties.

It also motivates and attracts volunteers to the site, which is entirely excavated by volunteers. So far, 149 human remains have been found there, said Perrenoud.

The oldest human remains are in Spain, in the cave of Sima de los Huesos in the Atapuerca Mountains.

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