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The oldest human remains found by archaeologists in the Netherlands is the fragment of a Neanderthal skull estimated to be between 40,000 and 100,000 years old. It belonged to an adult man who has been given the name of Krijn.

The fragment was found by shrimp fishermen using a suction dredger in the Middeldiep, part of the North Sea 15 km from the coast of Zeeland. In Krijn’s time this would have been dry land and you could have walked from Limburg to London, according to Luc Amkreutz, curator of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden.

Examining the fossil

Staff from the University of Leiden and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig co-operated in a joint programme to study the piece of bone. Among other things, they compared the bone with other Neanderthal skulls. From the superciliary arch (above the eyebrow) and the appearance of brain sutures they concluded that Krijn was probably a young man

Results from chemical analysis of the bone also showed that Krijn had eaten a lot of meat. Analysis of a small hollow in the skull revealed that Krijn must have had a benign tumour in his head. But that was not the cause of his death.

A missing link

Archaeologists already suspected that Neanderthals must have lived in this region, but the discovery of this fragment of skull provides evidence to prove this theory. Stone tools and weapons such as hand axes are regularly discovered in the North Sea, as are bones from mammoths and other Ice Age animals. They are often well preserved because of the absence of oxygen in the water.

Scientists believe that an enormous archive and a wealth of information lies on the bottom of the North Sea.

Meanwhile, the fragment of Krijn’s skull can be seen on permanent display in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden .

Source: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Text              Marsiska Hermse 

Translation     Alun Harvey

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