NEWS

A prehistoric relative found

The skull of a Mesopithecus has been found on a steep slope in Kryopigi in Halkidiki, northern Greece, a team of researchers from the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki announced recently. The early primate skull is similar to those found in Pikermi in Attica and on display in natural history museums around the world. The fossilized cranium is considered one of the most interesting finds by a team from the Geology Department of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University. For the past eight years, the team has been excavating the area to search for evidence of small mammals and carnivores. The skull was found in excellent condition. Because it has sharp canines, it is thought to be a male Mesopithecus. It belongs to the family of Cercopithecidae, with tails no longer than 1.3 meters. Like man, Mesopithecus was a primate. They roamed areas including what is now Southern and Central Europe and Afghanistan between 5 and 7 million years ago in the Late Miocene era, said Evangelia Tsoukala, a professor in the Geology Department. The features of the skull indicate that the primate lived in the savannah but in a hotter climate than now. Mesopithecus was likely a herbivore and was prey to carnivores. Tsoukala said the fossil’s discovery is of global interest because it is one of the best-preserved skulls ever found. It has survived intact for millions of years, thanks to the sediment that covered it, protecting it and helping fossilization. The dig at Kryopigi has unearthed thousands of fossils from 20 different species of animal, which bear witness to the diversity of the fauna in the area. Among the significant finds are fossils of four species of cattle as well as gazelles, antelopes, five species of carnivore, a mastodon, giraffes, and four species of small prehistoric horses with three toes. That’s enough artifacts to furnish a paleontology museum in the area, Tsoukala said.