In early April, after a successful sampling trip to the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Rachel travelled on further to Bratislava. Thanks to Dr. Alena Šefčáková from the Slovak National Museum, a small sample from a Neanderthal frontal bone (Šal’a I) was made available to be sampled for AMS dating and DNA analysis. This beautiful specimen was found in 1961 in the gravel beds of the river Váh near Šal’a, not far away from the capital. Little is known about this individual, but it is thought to have been a young adult male. While his remains were found embedded with numerous faunal remains, his original resting place further up the river remains unidentified. His current residence, though, is in the Slovak National Museum, next to the river Danube. With his pronounced super-orbital torus, he appeared to be watching us carefully throughout the sampling process!
After this, a surprise meeting with Karol Schauer led to an evening spent in a pub close to the river and some traditional Slovak cuisine. In light of his recent exhibition “Krieg – eine archäologische Spurensuche” (war – decoding its archaeological traces) at the Halle State Museum of Prehistory, Germany, the discussions covered aspects of human interaction from a fruitful large array of perspectives: field archaeology, technology and trace analysis, experimental archaeology, physical anthropology, radiocarbon dating, knowledge transfer, the Arts and museum visitors. It was worth giving up some sleep for such good company.
The following morning, with Dr. Bibianá Hromadová, we travelled to Nitra, the home of the Slovak Academiy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology. There, we were reunited with Šal’a I’s ‘cousin’ - Šal’a II (pictured left). The Neanderthal cranial fragments (left frontal bone and left parietal bone) were found in 1993 and 1995 and believed to have come from the same primary deposit as the specimen from the National Museum. Due to the more gracile bone structure, researchers have labelled her female. Hopefully, some of the possible family secrets will be revealed through the DNA and radiocarbon analysis that is shortly under way.
Back in Bratislava, the research trip was rounded off with sampling 7 osseous points found in 1950 by Prošek at the cave Dzeravá Skala, the ‘hollow rock’. These were probably made by early modern humans during the Aurignacian.