30 March 2004
DUSSELDORF – Germany’s most primitive teeth have gone missing from the Neanderthal Museum, and embarrassed staff admitted they had not noticed at first, but thought the dentures were out of the display case to be cleaned.
The milk tooth from a 12-year-old (Neanderthals were late developers) and an adult molar were discovered in 2002 during an archaeological dig at Mettmann, near Dusseldorf, on the spot where the first Neanderthal skeletal remains were discovered in 1856.
The museum on the site is a major tourist attraction, with mock- ups of homely Neanderthal caves and hunting scenes.
Police said there must have been two thefts, because staff could remember first one tooth disappearing, then the other. Staff initially accepted the first loss, thinking curators had taken the tooth to clean.
The case was undamaged, and police said it had probably been simply screwed off the wall each time. Scientists described the missing teeth as “priceless and utterly irreplaceable”.
The human type that inhabited Europe and West Asia between 300,000 and 30,000 years ago is named after the Neander Valley, a scenic stretch on the course of the Duessel river.
Subject: German news