The Spy VI child : a newly discovered Neandertal infant
Plicht, van der, Johannes
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
Journal of human evolution. - London
, p. 641-656
University of Antwerp
Spy cave (Jemeppe-sur-Sambre, Belgium) is reputed for the two adult Neandertal individuals discovered in situ in 1886. Recent reassessment of the Spy collections has allowed direct radiocarbon dating of these individuals. The sorting of all of the faunal collections has also led to the discovery of the remains of a Neandertal child, Spy VI. This individual is represented by two mandibular corpus fragments. The left fragment is the most complete and both sides preserve the mental foramen. Four deciduous teeth are associated with these mandibular remains: three incisors and one canine. The lower left canine (Spy 645a) conjoins with the corresponding alveolar socket in the left part of the mandible. Following extant standards, the developmental stage of the preserved teeth indicate an age at death of about one and a half years. In addition to performing a classical morphometric comparative study of the mandible and teeth, we have evaluated the dental tissue proportions using high-resolution microtomographic techniques. Our results show that Spy VI generally falls within the Neandertal range of variation. However, this specimen also exhibits particular traits, notably in the dental internal structural organization, which reveals that variation in the immature Neandertal variation is larger than what was variation currently represented by the available fossil record. These observations demonstrate the need for investigating the frequency and expression of immature Neandertal traits in fossil anterior teeth, as well as their temporal and geographic variation. Direct radiocarbon dating of the Spy VI specimen has been conducted in two different laboratories. The results of Spy VI confirm the age previously determined for the two adults, making the Spy Neandertal remains the youngest ever directly dated in northwest Europe.