Tautavel tooth
The Tautavel tooth dates to 560,000 years agoCentre Européen de Recherches Préhistoriques de Tautavel

A 560,000-year-old human tooth has been discovered in Tautavel, near Perpignan in France – one of the oldest human fossils ever discovered in Europe.

The tooth was found in the Arago Cave by two volunteers participating in a summer excavation project.

It is 110,000 older than the famous Tautavel Man, a subspecies of the hominid Homo erectus discovered at the site in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Amélie Vialet, anthropologist and head of excavations Tautavel, told France Bleu the find was a "shock".

The tooth has been dubbed Arago 149 as it is the 149th specimen of hominid remains found in the cave.

The tooth is a lower central incisor from an adult. It will allow experts at the Centre Européen de Recherches Préhistoriques de Tautavel to "better characterise the morphology of the first Europeans".

Researchers believe the find indicates more discoveries – possibly dating even further back – could still be waiting for excavation at the site: "Its presence in a very rich level of occupation, whose meticulous clearance is just beginning, portends further discoveries similar," a statement on the find said.

The Arago Cave has been subject to excavation for more than half a century and so far more than 60,000 objects and deposits from between 80,000 and 560,000 years ago have been found.