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Two archaeology students find 560,000-year-old tooth

Published:Wednesday | July 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

PARIS (AP):

Two students have found a human tooth from about 560,000 years ago in a famous prehistoric cave in southwestern France, a discovery praised by archaeologists as the oldest human body part ever discovered in the country and being rare from that period in Europe.

The tooth was found last week during excavations at Tautavel, one of Europe's most important prehistoric sites, where about 40 volunteers are working under the supervision of scientists.

Paleoanthropologist Tony Chevalier, researcher at Tautavel's archaeological laboratory, called it a "major discovery".

Chevalier told The Associated Press that the adult tooth would help fill a gap between the very few oldest human fossils, notably found in Spain and Germany, and more recent ones.

Thousands of finds on the site include prehistoric tools and bones from animals, especially horses, reindeers and buffalos.

"We believe these men have lived for a long time in the cave or have regularly come back into it," Chevalier said. "We also know that the area was quite cold at the time. It was a steppe, with no trees. There had to be some long periods with snow."

These latest findings haven't been the subject of a scientific publication yet, but Tautavel is recognised as a reference by archaeologists all over the world.