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Rare Mesopithecus skull unearthed in Chalkidiki July 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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A rare, intact cranium (skull) of a Mesopithecus that is closer to the evolution of man from similar Mesopithecus genus (primate order) crania brought to light in Greece so far, has been unearthed on the slopes of a pine-covered hill at Kryopigi, on the Kassandra peninsula in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, during a dig by a team of the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University’s Geology Department, it was announced on Tuesday.

According to Aristotelion University geology professor Evangelia Tsoukala, the cranium was a rare find, dating back to 5-7 million years ago (Late Miocene to Late Pliocene geological epoch), which was protected from the deformation by ischium that usually occurs during the process of fossilisation by two small stones that formed a natural casing, or protective cast.

The Mesopithecus genus belongs to the Cercopithecidae family of the Primate order (Anthropoidea suborder) — the highest order of Mammals (Mammalia division) — meaning the family of apes with tails. The Mesopithecus, which reached 1.30m in height, was a plant eater, and lived in the geological Turolian age (Upper Miocene epoch).

The Mesopithecus (“middle monkey”) is morphologically closely related to the well-known long-tailed gray langur monkeys (Semnopithecus) extant in India today.

According to paleoanthropologist and Thrace University professor Antonis Bartsiokas, the cranium is equal in size with that of the extinct Homo Floresiensis (“Flores man”, the smallest species of human ever discovered, remains of which were found in 2003 in the Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, where the species lived just 18,000 years ago, co-existing at the time with modern humans.

The university’s Geology Department has been searching for fossils of the Tyrolian age since 1998, following the chance find of a fossilised tooth of a Hipparion, a prehistoric horse with three toes on each hoof, that reached a height of just 1.20m.

Previous Mesopithecus fossils in Greece have been found near Vathylakkos in the Axios valley in Macedonia, near Maramena in the Serres basin, and in Pikermi, Attica.

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