The twee town of Torquay, on England’s Devon coast, has two major claims to fame: It was the birthplace and longtime home of mystery writer Agatha Christie, and it’s the home of Kents Cavern, one of the United Kingdom’s most important archaeological sites. Last year, researchers reported that an upper jaw found in the cave could be the oldest modern human fossil in Europe. But a new study questions that claim, arguing that the date of the jawbone may never be known with certainty. The controversy has an important bearing on debates about the spread of Homo sapiens out of Africa.
“One bad date can rewrite the entire prehistory of our species in Europe,” says Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and co-author of the new study, which is in press at the European Journal of Archaeology. Read more.