An international team of researchers made a record-breaking discovery.
While digging in Portugal, they found a 400,000-year-old human cranium.
It was unearthed from the cave of Aroeira, making it the furthest west locale to produce a human fossil from the Pleistocene epoch.
The piece is the oldest ever found in the region.
Further, the cranium is unique as scientists have been able to date and contextualize it in the larger history of area populations, something that has been notably lacking in previous finds.
Rolf Quam, one of the team members, said, “This is an interesting new fossil discovery from the Iberian Peninsula, a crucial region for understanding the origin and evolution of the Neandertals.”
He also noted the, “…cranium increases the anatomical diversity in the human fossil record from this time period, suggesting different populations showed somewhat different combinations of features.”
The fossil was discovered in 2014 but was so firmly entombed in the surrounding sediment, an entire block of Earth had to be extracted.
The endeavor to free the cranium from it took roughly 2 years.