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Million-year-old human tooth found in Spain

Spanish researchers said they had unearthed a human tooth more than one million years old, which they estimated to be the oldest human fossil remain ever discovered in western Europe.

Million-year-old human tooth found in Spain

Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, codirector of research at the Atapuerca site said the molar, discovered on Wednesday in the Atapuerca Sierra in the northern province of Burgos, could be as much as 1.2 million years old.

"The tooth represents the oldest human fossil remain of western Europe. Now we finally have the anatomical evidence of the hominids that fabricated tools more than one million years ago," the Atapuerca Foundation said in a statement.

"Since it is an isolated fossil remain, it is not possible at this point to confirm which Homo species this tooth belongs to," the foundation added, but said first analyses "allow us to suppose it is an ancestor of Homo antecessor (pioneer)".

Researchers found the molar in the Sima del Elefante section of the Sierra Atapuerca, which had previously yielded fossils from mammals including bison, deer and bear as well as birds and a mouse.

Bermudez de Castro, one of three paleontologists leading the expedition, said the fossil appeared to be "well worn" and from an individual aged between 2025.

"For the time being we have no idea what species but there is no doubt, from the (geological) level where the tooth was found, that it belonged to the oldest European found to date," he added.

Excavations in recent years in the sierra have uncovered human remains ranging from early humans through the Bronze Age to modern man.

Agence FrancePresse




to estimate, v: to make a rough calculation or approximate judgement

fossil, n: part of an animal or plant that has turned into rock

remain, n: what is left after somebody dies or something is destroyed

molar, n: tooth at the back of the mouth on which you chew

anatomical, adj: relating to the body

hominids, n: members of the primate family, including humans, and their ancestors

isolated, adj: only one; alone; away from anybody or anything else

to yield, v: to provide or give something positive or useful

excavation, n: place or action where something is dug up from the ground

to range, v: to be from a number of different things of great variety




1. What fossil was found?

a. antler

b. molar

c. moose

d. mammoth


2. In which part of Spain was the fossil found?

a. east

b. west

c. north

d. south


3. How old is the fossil believed to be?

a. 100 years

b. 1,000 years

c. 20,000 years

d. more than one million years


4. Why is it difficult so say what species exactly the fossil comes from?

a. All fossils look alike.

b. Fossils look exactly like things today.

c. There was no other fossil to give more information.

d. Often fossils are mistaken for something completely different.


5. What other fossils have been found previously in the Sierra Atapuerca?

a. bison

b. axolotl

c. elephant

d. sabretoothed tiger



Which of the following words or phrases replace the ones from the passage best?


1. unearth

a. bury

b. dig up

c. impact

d. cave in



a. be

b. join

c. confirm

d. replace


3. evidence

a. proof

b. question

c. dilemma

d. insecurity


4. fabricate

a. use

b. fake

c. make

d. fight with


5. suppose

a. reject

b. concoct

c. presume

d. hypnotise



Questions 1. b, 2. c, 3. d, 4. c, 5.a

Synonyms 1. b, 2. a, 3. a, 4. c, 5. c


By Ajarn Horst Baelz

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