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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Meet the ancestors
Europe's oldest human El Mundo
El Nino de la Dolina lived in Spain 800,000 years ago
The face of what has sometimes been described as Europe's oldest human being has appeared to the world in three dimensions for the first time.


We scientists have brought him back to life

Juan Luis Arsuaga
Experts recreated the head of the boy known as El Nino de la Dolina, who lived in northern Spain 800,000 years ago and was eaten by other humans, the Spanish news agency Efe said.

He is thought to have been aged 10 or 11, Efe added.

The skull of El Nino de la Dolina was found in 1995, at Gran Dolina, in the Atapuerca archaeological site in Burgos Province.

Taken by cannibals

It was among the fossilised remains of six people who had been dragged there and eaten, the Spanish daily El Mundo said.

El Nino de la Dolina has a rounded forehead, a flat face and a snub nose.

"We scientists have brought him back to life by putting flesh on the bones", Juan Luis Arsuaga, the co-director of the excavations, told El Mundo.

Arsuaga's team presented a replica of the boy's head at the Kutxaespacio museum in San Sebastian on Wednesday.

Common ancestor

Also on show is a replica head of Homo heidelbergensis - one of 32 people found in Atapuerca and dating back 300,000 years.

It is based on a skull found in Sima de los Huesos (Pit of Bones), Europe's oldest known burial site, in Atapuerca.

Who were our real ancestors?
The ancestry of modern humans is still under debate
Some scientists think Homo heidelbergensis was the last common ancestor of the Neanderthals and today's humans.

But Arsuaga and his team challenge this view, attributing this status to what they call Homo antecessor of whom, they say, El Nino de la Dolina is an example.

Main image is courtesy of Inaki de Andres, El Mundo

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

01 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Neanderthals were cannibals
11 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Teeth and bones stir human debate
09 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Ice Age star map discovered
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