en-fr  9.7-million-year-old teeth discovery in Germany could re-write human history
Des dents vieilles de 9,7 millions d'années, découvertes en Allemagne, pourraient ré-écrire l'histoire de l'humanité.

Gabriel Borrud, Deutsche Welle, 21 Octobre 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/10/21/9-7-million-year-old-teeth-discovery-germany-could-re-write-human-history/787140001/.

Les dents d'un grand singe, trouvées à Eppelsheim l'année dernière, pourraient remettre en cause la connaissance de l'histoire de nos origines. Herbert Lutz, responsable de l'équipe de fouilles, raconte à Deutsche Welle ce que la découverte signifie pour lui - et comment cela a bien failli ne pas arriver.

Il y a un peu plus d'un an, une équipe d'archéologues découvrait dans le sud-ouest de l'Allemagne, deux dents, dans un ancien lit du Rhin, dans la ville d'Eppelsheim, près de Mayence.

Les nouvelles de la découverte furent annoncées cette semaine, car l'équipe qui avait réalisé les fouilles voulait être sûre que ce qu'ils avaient trouvé était aussi important qu'ils l'avaient initialement pensé.

Herbert Lutz est à la tête de cette équipe au Musée d'histoire naturelle de Mayence.

Herbert Lutz : c'est totalement nouveau pour la science, et c'est une grande surprise car personne n'avait prévu une telle découverte énorme et extrêmement rare. Trouver une espèce complètement nouvelle ? Personne n'attendait cela.

Deutsche Welle (DW) : pourquoi avez vous été chercher à cet endroit précis ?

HL : nous creusions des sédiments dans le lit de la rivière du Rhin à l'époque de l'antiquité près de Eppelsheim. Ces sédiments ont approximativement 10 millions d'années et sont bien connus du milieu scientifique, depuis que les premiers fossiles aient été extraits ici au début du XIXe siècle.

DW : et quel âge ont les dents que vous avez trouvées.

HL : environ 9,7 millions d'années.

DW : à quoi ressemble une dent de 9,7 millions d'années ?

HL : elle est parfaitement conservée. Cela ressemble, en fait, à une nouvelle excellente dent ; cependant elle n'est plus blanche. Cela brille comme de l'ambre.

DW: On a dit au sujet de cette dent que ce n'était pas moins l'histoire de l'humanité qui devait être réécrite... HL: vous savez bien qu'il s'agit d'une question qui est discutée depuis des décennies. Les nouvelles découvertes amènent de nouvelles idées qui peuvent contribuer à notre connaissance de notre propre histoire et cette trouvaille-là a ce potentiel, car les espèces de grands singes sont en relation avec Homo sapiens.

DW: alors quelle est la grande information révolutionnaire ici ?

HL: ce qu'il y a de révolutionnaire, c'est que les seules découvertes similaires se trouvent uniquement en Afrique de l'Est. Et celles-ci sont beaucoup, beaucoup plus jeunes These species are well known as Ardi and Lucy, and their canines look very similar to the one here from Eppelsheim, but they are only two, three, four or five million years old, and Eppelsheim is almost 10. So the question is: What has happened?

DW: You mean - how this great ape got up to the Rhine valley, or whether the species in Africa came from Europe?

HL: Yeah, we have similar species in Africa, but we don't know where this great ape came from. We do not have comparable finds from southern Europe, even from in between maybe Greece or Turkey. From there, we know of great ape fossils, but they all look much different. And so it's a great mystery.

DW: So this is the lone Rhineland monkey whose teeth have been found. Can the general public see the discovery?

HL: Until Sunday, yes, they are in our exhibition in the museum in Mainz. And most likely about mid November they will be on display in a great exhibition in the Landesmuseum in Mainz.

DW: Professor Lutz, can you give us a sense of how important this finding was to you personally?

HL: Well, we've been digging at this site for 17 years now. And when we started, of course everybody knew it had the potential to yield hominoid fossils. We were always waiting for such a find. But at the end of 2016, we decided to finish the excavation and just in the last second, if you will, these two teeth came to light. We really weren't expecting such a tremendous discovery. So for us now it's clear we have to continue, and we will continue. And, well, I think it's a big luck to experience such an exciting story. I did not expect it.

Professor Herbert Lutz is deputy director of the Natural History Museum in Mainz. His focus is geological and paleontological excavation.
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9.7-million-year-old teeth discovery in Germany could re-write human history.
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Herbert Lutz heads that team at the Natural History Museum in Mainz.
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To find a completely new species?
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Nobody expected that.
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Deutsche Welle (DW): Why were you looking at this precise location?
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HL: We were excavating riverbed sediments of the proto-Rhine River near Eppelsheim.
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DW: And how old are the teeth you've found?
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HL: Around 9.7 million years old.
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DW: What does a 9.7-million-year-old tooth look like?
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HL: It's perfectly preserved.
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It actually looks like a new excellent tooth; however, it's no longer white.
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It's shining like amber.
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DW: So what's the big groundbreaking knowledge here?
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HL: The groundbreaking knowledge is that we have comparable finds only in East Africa.
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And these are much, much younger.
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So the question is: What has happened?
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And so it's a great mystery.
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DW: So this is the lone Rhineland monkey whose teeth have been found.
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Can the general public see the discovery?
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HL: Well, we've been digging at this site for 17 years now.
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We were always waiting for such a find.
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We really weren't expecting such a tremendous discovery.
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So for us now it's clear we have to continue, and we will continue.
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And, well, I think it's a big luck to experience such an exciting story.
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I did not expect it.
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His focus is geological and paleontological excavation.
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9.7-million-year-old teeth discovery in Germany could re-write human history.

Gabriel Borrud, Deutsche Welle, October 21, 2017.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/10/21/9-7-million-year-old-teeth-discovery-germany-could-re-write-human-history/787140001/.

The great ape teeth found in Eppelsheim last year could topple the understanding of our earliest history. Herbert Lutz, head of the excavation team, tells Deutsche Welle what the find means to him — and how it almost didn’t happen.

A little over a year ago, a team of archaeologists in southwestern Germany uncovered two teeth where the Rhine River used to flow, in the town of Eppelsheim near Mainz.

The news of the discovery was announced this week, because the team that performed the excavation wanted to make sure that what they had found was as significant as they initially thought.

Herbert Lutz heads that team at the Natural History Museum in Mainz.

Herbert Lutz: It's completely new to science, and it is a big surprise because nobody had expected such a tremendous, extremely rare discovery. To find a completely new species? Nobody expected that.

Deutsche Welle (DW): Why were you looking at this precise location?

HL: We were excavating riverbed sediments of the proto-Rhine River near Eppelsheim. These sediments are approximately 10 million years old and are well known in science, ever since the first fossils were excavated here in the early 19th century.

DW: And how old are the teeth you've found?

HL: Around 9.7 million years old.

DW: What does a 9.7-million-year-old tooth look like?

HL: It's perfectly preserved. It actually looks like a new excellent tooth; however, it's no longer white. It's shining like amber.

DW: No less has been said about this tooth than that the history of mankind now has to be rewritten…

HL: Well you know it's a question that's been discussed for decades. New discoveries lead to new insights that may contribute to our knowledge about our own history, and this finding has that potential because the great ape species has a relationship to Homo sapiens.

DW: So what's the big groundbreaking knowledge here?

HL: The groundbreaking knowledge is that we have comparable finds only in East Africa. And these are much, much younger. These species are well known as Ardi and Lucy, and their canines look very similar to the one here from Eppelsheim, but they are only two, three, four or five million years old, and Eppelsheim is almost 10. So the question is: What has happened?

DW: You mean - how this great ape got up to the Rhine valley, or whether the species in Africa came from Europe?

HL: Yeah, we have similar species in Africa, but we don't know where this great ape came from. We do not have comparable finds from southern Europe, even from in between maybe Greece or Turkey. From there, we know of great ape fossils, but they all look much different. And so it's a great mystery.

DW: So this is the lone Rhineland monkey whose teeth have been found. Can the general public see the discovery?

HL: Until Sunday, yes, they are in our exhibition in the museum in Mainz. And most likely about mid November they will be on display in a great exhibition in the Landesmuseum in Mainz.

DW: Professor Lutz, can you give us a sense of how important this finding was to you personally?

HL: Well, we've been digging at this site for 17 years now. And when we started, of course everybody knew it had the potential to yield hominoid fossils. We were always waiting for such a find. But at the end of 2016, we decided to finish the excavation and just in the last second, if you will, these two teeth came to light. We really weren't expecting such a tremendous discovery. So for us now it's clear we have to continue, and we will continue. And, well, I think it's a big luck to experience such an exciting story. I did not expect it.

Professor Herbert Lutz is deputy director of the Natural History Museum in Mainz. His focus is geological and paleontological excavation.