Discovery of Neanderthal Man in Malta


OF the various problems relating to extinct forms of man, none is of greater interest than that which concerns Homo neanderthalensis. This peculiar and extinct species of man appeared in Europe about the commencement of the Mousterian cultural period, and all traces of him vanish towards the close of that period. Where he came from and where he finally disappeared we do not know, hence every additional fact we can collect about him is of value. So far his remains have been found at Gibraltar (1848), the Rhine valley (1857), Belgium, the Dordogne, and Croatia. The peculiar teeth of this race were reported from the Mousterian strata of a cave in Jersey by Dr. R. R. Marett in 1911. Excavations in the cave of Ghar Dalam, in the south-eastern corner of Malta, carried out by Dr. Giuseppe Despott, curator of the Natural History Museum of the University of Malta, working for a research committee of the British Association, has brought to light the remains of Neanderthal man in that island, thus extending the distribution of this species to another continent; for, in a zoological sense, Malta is African rather than European. It is true that so far only two teeth have been found—a first upper molar and a milk molar—but those who are familiar with the characteristic form of the molar teeth of Neanderthal man will have no hesitation in assenting to the truth of Dr. Despott's discovery. I append Dr. Despott's photograph of the two Neanderthal teeth, giving for comparison photographs of the teeth of a modern type of man found in the Neolithic strata of Ghar Dalam, overlying the strata from which the Neanderthal teeth were derived (Fig. 1).

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KEITH, A. Discovery of Neanderthal Man in Malta. Nature 101, 404–405 (1918).

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