Dentist finds jaw in his parents’ tiled floor, ‘almost certainly human’

Dentist finds jaw in his parents’ tiled floor, ‘almost certainly human’

A small message from a young dentist in France on the social news platform Reddit stirred the international community of paleontologists and amateur fossil hunters last week. Redditor Kidipadeli75 posted a photo of a natural stone tile in his parents’ floor. A fossil can be seen close to the aluminum sill: unmistakably a human-like lower jaw, Kidipadeli75 immediately thought from his professional expertise. But he had no knowledge of fossils, so he submitted the photo with his questions to ‘the wisdom of the beehive’ that is Reddit: “My parents just had their house renovated with travertine stone. This looks like a piece of the lower jaw. Could it be from a humanoid? Is this normal?”

The lower jaw of a humanoid, the banana indicates its size.
Photo Kidipadeli75

The responses soon came, some corny, others serious and well-informed. “Dentist trained in forensic dentistry here: this is a humanoid mandible, almost certainly human.”

The leading American paleonto-anthropologist John Hawks, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has also picked up the issue on his blog. “I am currently working in South Africa and I showed the image to some of our fossil preparation specialists today. Everyone agreed: it’s pretty cool!”

“I have never seen anything like this,” says Jelle Reumer, emeritus professor of paleontology in Utrecht. Reumer is the author of the book Urban fossils, in which he searches Dutch buildings and sidewalks for fossilized remains of plants and animals in tiles and decorative stones. He found no hominid fossils there.

The French dentist who made the discovery at his parents’ home prefers to remain anonymous, afraid that the news will have consequences for his dental practice. He has promised to cooperate with scientists who want to help him further investigate the fossil jaw. The identification is still difficult; you need to know where exactly the rock comes from and how old it is.

Tiles with imperfections

The travertine in the parental home comes from Turkey, Kidipadeli75 was able to find out; from which quarry exactly is still unclear. Travertine is a deposit of calcium carbonate that forms in places where calcareous spring water flows from the ground. Some travertine deposits in Turkey are up to a million years old, while in other sites with quarries the rock is four hundred thousand years old. And even now, new travertine is still forming, for example at the famous hot springs of Pamukkale in central Turkey.

The parents had specially chosen a rough quality with some imperfections at the tile store, so that they would not slip on a smooth floor.

There are calls for the tile to be carefully highlighted so that the fossil can be better studied. The tiles are 3.5 centimeters thick, the story states. “Then you can indeed take out a whole piece of the jaw,” says Reumer. Maybe that will provide more clues.