Fossilised remains of nine Neanderthal men who lived up to 100,000 years ago have been discovered in a cave near Rome.
Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Saturday praised the find as "an extraordinary discovery which the whole world will be talking about".
Archaeologists uncovered the remains in the Grotta Guattari prehistoric caves which were discovered by workers more than 80 years ago, dw.com reports.
Eight of them dated to between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago while the oldest was between 90,000 and 100,000 years old, said Italy's Culture Ministry.
It said in a statement: "Together with two others found in the past on the site, they bring the total number of individuals present in the Guattari Cave to 11, confirming it as one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man."
The caves are about 100 meters (328 feet) from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in San Felice Circeo in Italy's Lazio region.
Archaeologists began conducting new research into the Guattari Cave in October 2019 after it was found by accident by a group of workers in 1939.
Paleontologist Albert Carlo Blanc discovered a well-preserved Neanderthal skull shortly afterward. The cave had been closed off by an ancient landslide.
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Excavations also uncovered bones, craniums and other body parts at the site, as well animal remains such as the aurochs — an extinct bovine — and elephant, rhinoceros, giant deer, cave bears, wild horses and hyenas.
"Many of the bones found show clear signs of gnawing," the ministry statement said.
Neanderthals are the closest known ancient relatives of humans but died out around 40,000 years ago.
Local director of anthropology Mario Rubini said: "Neanderthal man is a fundamental stage in human evolution, representing the apex of a species and the first human society we can talk about."
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Rubini said the discovery of the Neanderthal remains near Rome will shed an "important light on the history of the peopling of Italy."
Earlier this month we reported that the body of a young child buried some 78,000 years has been confirmed as the earliest known deliberate burial of a human being in Africa.
The child, who would have been two or three years old when they died, appears to have been wrapped in a shroud and given a pillow for their head before being placed in a shallow circular pit dug into the floor of a cave in eastern Kenya.
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The half-mile-long Panga ya Saidi cave network has been a treasure trove for archaeologists, who say the caves were used for centuries.
Some parts of the bones belonging to the child – named 'Mtoto' by archaeologists, meaning 'child' in Swahili – were first found during excavations at Panga ya Saidi in 2013.
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