The Italian Almanac

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saber toothed tiger

Old Bones

Archaeologists said they had uncovered a massive haul of animal bones and flint tools during a dig at a southern Italian site some claim to be the oldest human habitation ever discovered in Europe. Researchers on the five-week dig at the Pirro Nord site near Apricena in Puglia found 3,000 bones belonging to extinct large mammals such as the saber-toothed tiger and the woolly mammoth and around 100 flint tools used for cutting up animal carcases some 1.5 million years ago.

This is the second major dig at the site after archaeologists discovered a collection of tools there in 2006. They have claimed that the evidence shows the first human inhabitants of Europe lived in southern Italy, predating flint tools found in Spain by almost one million years. ''The Pirro Nord site gives us the oldest evidence of the arrival of prehistoric man in Europe,'' said dig chiefs Marta Arzarello of Ferrara University and Marco Pavia of Turin University. ''We find these men around 1.8 million years ago just outside Europe in Georgia, and later in Italy, France and Spain,'' they added.