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Lost-and-Found Fossil Tot: Neandertal baby rises from French archive

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10:13am, September 4, 2002

For nearly 90 years, a prehistoric baby's bones lay unidentified in the recesses of a French museum. This was no minor case of misplaced fossils: It was a rare instance of a nearly complete skeleton of a Neandertal.

A survey of the museum's fossil collection has now salvaged the approximately 40,000-year-old Stone Age specimen, according to a report in the Sept. 5 Nature.

University of Bordeaux anthropologist Bruno Maureille, who rediscovered the skeleton, calls it "a rich source of data" for studying the evolution of individual development as well as the relationship between Neandertals and Homo sapiens.

French schoolteacher and fossil hunter Denis Peyrony unearthed the ancient infant's skeleton in southwestern France in 1914. Neandertals had apparently buried the child in a rock shelter called Le Moustier 2. In the late 1800s, the first stone tools attributed to Neandertals were unearthed at the nearby Le Moustier cave.

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