Scientists from the Mainz Natural History Museum in Germany believe they discovered something that would prove that humans inhabited Europe first than any other area in the world. They said they might have found a set of teeth dated back more than nine million years ago, way prior to any other human fossils that suggest humans first lived in Africa or Asia. This discovery has caused scientists to question historical records regarding the evolution of man.

The set of nine-million-years-old teeth found in a dried-up riverbed near Eppelsheim, in Germany’s Rhineland, is the first of its kind discovered in the continent where the old world developed. Scientists saw it while they were scrutinizing through sand and gravel in the bed of the Ur-Rhine, an old course of the Rhine River. This zone is popular due to other important fossils that have found there since the nineteenth century.

Fossil in Germany, First humans in Europe, 9-million-year-old teeth
The 9-million-year-old teeth found in Germany. Image credit: Mainz Natural History Museum

According to a paper published Friday in the journal ResearchGate, these are similar to those teeth that belong to the first humanoids skeletons discovered in Africa. However, these are older. The fossils found across Africa and Asia are from around 4 million years ago, but scientists estimate that this set of teeth is about 9.5 million years old.

If these teeth are, in fact, older than any other fossil found before, that would mean they would also be older than the skeletons of ‘Lucy’ and ‘Ardi,’ the first examples of Australopithecus afarensis and Ardipithecus ramidus discovered in Ethiopia. The experts said that the molar was found to share characteristics with other species, including Lucy.

While making the analysis, the scientists are hoping that this ancient ape might help to fill some empty spaces within the fossil record. This one might be another species to be added to the human family tree.

“Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim. This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery,” lead researcher Herbert Lutz told a local German press.

What he did not entirely define was what kind of ape these teeth belonged to.

Never before seen canines

Scientists believe that these teeth might belong to a great ape, potentially an early hominin species. This ape could somehow be related to African hominin tribes.

What makes researchers positive no one has ever found something like this is particularly the canine tooth. Any species found in northern Europe has had a similar canine.

Lutz told ResearchGate that this is something entirely new, “something previously unknown to science.” Because of its teeth, the team still can’t tell the origin of the individual. He assured that it’s a complete mystery why nobody has ever found “a tooth like this somewhere before.”

Of course, these kinds of findings cannot be taken lightly. A complete year passed since September 2016, when scientists first unveiled the rest of the ancient humanoids skeletons. Before the first announcement, they wanted to take the time to conduct the proper analysis and verify that they were not wrong.

Scientists are still examining the teeth in detail. They said they’re going to release the first paper next week, but they will remain performing more research until they’re sure of their claim.

German authorities also want scientists to reexamine and be sure that the teeth are the first proof of human existence in the world’s history – at least until something new surfaces again. The mayor of the German town of Mainz, where the discovery was made, said that he doesn’t want to “over-dramatize it,” but he “would hypothesize” that the world should start “rewriting the history of mankind” after this finding.

Researchers will continue analyzing the teeth

The researchers will use high resolution x-rays to examine the inner structure of the enamel, thus to reveal the proper age of the ape and if it developed healthy.

Fossil in Germany, First humans in Europe, 9-millionyear-old teeth
The never before seen canine. Image credit: Mainz Natural History Museum

The phenomenon of convergence might explain why this European specimen has canines so similar to more advanced ancient individuals. According to the researchers, each non-related specimen could have developed certain organisms because they had to adapt to similar ecological niches. This way, both could independently share similar traits.

A German archeologist, colleague, and expert on the region, said that if this finding is entirely right, it should bring the attention from worldwide researchers. According to him, this will “amaze experts.”

“Both teeth, the crowns of an upper left canine and an upper right first molar, are exceptionally well preserved and obviously come from the same body of unknown sex,” Dr Herbert Lutz wrote on the study.

Although the analysis is still ongoing, the findings are already scheduled to be on display at the local Rhineland-Palatinate state exhibition by the end of the month. When this exhibit finishes, they will be displayed at the Museum of Natural History in Mainz, the scientists’ home town.

Source: ResearchGate