A nearly complete fossilized Neandertal skeleton accidentally found in 1993 in a cave near Altamura, Italy is about 128,000 to 187,000 years old. Only the upside down skull and part of a shoulder were visible. The rest of the body is incorporated into calcite concretions.
For six years researchers have been carefully working on studying this specimen, and up until now, held off from excavating the remains as they believed it would cause irreparable to the skeleton. Recently they removed a sample consisting of the articular portion of the right scapula. The team say samples of DNA have also been retrieved and because of the age, represent the oldest such samples ever recovered from Neandertal remains.
Giorgio Manzi, professor of paleoanthropology and human ecology at Rome’s Sapienza University, David Caramelli, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florence, and their colleagues wrote in the Journal of Human Evolution the remains
represent one of the most extraordinary hominin specimens ever found in Europe. It is of great interest that mtDNA was sufficiently preserved to permit paleogenetic analysis.
More information: The Neanderthal in the karst: First dating, morphometric, and paleogenetic data on the fossil skeleton from Altamura (Italy), Journal of Human Evolution, Available online 21 March 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.02.007