A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
A Neandertal cranium was discovered during quarrying operations at Ochtendung, near Koblenz, in western Germany, this past spring. Axel von Berg, a local archaeological official, spotted the skull fragment in loess (wind-blown Ice Age deposits) that was being removed to expose valuable lava in the crater of an extinct volcano. The skullcap, broken into three pieces, measures 6.9 by 5.7 inches. Its edge bears cutmarks, and the bone appears to have been deliberately shaped, perhaps to form a sort of vessel. The skullcap is exceptionally thick, up to 0.4 inches in places, and is thought to be from a male aged between 30 and 45 with a large cranial capacity. Initial estimates place it between 100,000 and 150,000 years old, but it may prove to be as many as 200,000 years old based on its stratigraphic position relative to volcanic layers. A flint sidescraper, a quartz flake, and a quartzite core were found in the immediate vicinity of the bone, but there was no evidence of either occupation or other remains, human or animal, with the cranium fragment.