Altamura Man

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Altamura Man, surrounded by limestone deposits.

The Altamura Man is a partially preserved fossil of the genus Homo. The skeleton was first thought to be an example of Homo heidelbergensis and was also described as having characteristics of Homo neanderthalensis. It has more recently been dated to 130,000 years ago and classified as an archaic Homo sapiens with some Neanderthal features.[1]



The skull was discovered in October of 1993 by speleologists with CARS (Centro Altamurano Ricerche Speleologiche) in the cave of Lamalunga in Altamura, Italy. While exploring the cave they stumbled upon a 10m karst sinkhole leading to a tunnel about 60m long, at the end of which they found the Altamura man, embedded in limestone. The skeletal structure is in an excellent state of preservation and has been left in situ since it's discovery. [2]


The fossilized skull displays the archaic anthropological features of an adult male genus Homo who lived during the Middle-Upper Pleistocene.

Researchers associated with the University of Bari have carried out laser scans of the find, obtaining numerical maps, models and three-dimensional videos of the fossil. And a study of DNA taken from the scapula of the fossil determined that the it belongs to the genetic variability of the "Neanderthal of Southern Europe".

Chronological studies on twenty faunal remains from the The Cave Of Lamalunga [3] carried out with Th-230 / U-234 method by Maria Elisabetta Branca and Mario Voltaggio of IGAG-CNR in Rome and published in vol. 2/2010 Dire in Puglia by MIBAC pp. 55–60, show a deposition age varying between 45,000 and 17,000 years ago, with the majority of remains varying between 45,000 and 30,000 years ago. Speleothem concretions were found to begin around 170,000 years ago and end 17,000 years ago.

The Altamura man remains embedded in a matrix of limestone to this day. As such a running challenge exists among experts to devise a way to remove the fossil intact.[4]

Between 1998 and 2000 the “Sarastro” project was carried out by Digamma Research Consortium, using integrated tele-operated systems it allowed remote access and observation of the site.[5]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Vacca, E; Delfino, V. P. (2004). "Three-dimensional topographic survey of the human remains in Lamalunga cave (Altamura, Bari, southern Italy)". Collegium antropologicum 28 (1): 113–9. PMID 15636069. 
  • Introna, Francesco; De Donno, Antonio; Santoro, Valeria; Corrado, Simona; Romano, Vito; Porcelli, Francesco; Campobasso, Carlo P. (2011). "The bodies of two missing children in an enclosed underground environment". Forensic Science International 207 (1–3): e40–7. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.12.007. PMID 21255948. 
  • "The Neanderthal in the karst: First dating, morphometric, and paleogenetic data on the fossil skeleton from Altamura (Italy)". Journal of Human Evolution. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.02.007. Lay (April 3, 2015). 

Coordinates: 40°49′01″N 16°33′00″E / 40.8170°N 16.5500°E / 40.8170; 16.5500