Wonder  }  Location

The Man of Altamura

The only intact human skeleton from the Paleolithic period is found in Apulia, Italy

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Where is


Via Santeramo in Colle, 88, 70022 Altamura BA, Italia (456m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

"Ciccillo," as he is affectionately called, was probably an adult male 160-165 centimeters tall who lived in the middle to upper Pleistocene. During a hunting trip he fell into one of the many karst pits in the area. The fractures and injuries he sustained prevented him from leaving the cave, which from that moment on became his grave forever, 8 meters below the surface. As the millennia passed, his bones were literally encased in the limestone concretions until they were discovered in 1993 by a group of cavers.

Why it is special

Altamura Man's record is his having been the oldest Neanderthal on whom it has been possible to perform paleogenetic analyses, such as reading the DNA encased in our cells. The information obtained has allowed us to understand aspects of the appearance and spread of Neanderthals and relationships with different species and populations. Indications have been acquired related to diseases, elements of nutrition, and, thanks to the combination of molecular and morphological studies, we have learned about the appearance, proportions and "colors" of this land-dweller who came to us from such a remote past.

Not to be missed

The karst that characterizes the area has given us numerous artifacts distributed in a museum network of three locations. Palazzo Baldassarre talks about karst, paleontology and geology, and houses inside a 1:1 scale reconstruction of the portion of the cave where the skeleton was found. The National Archaeological Museum tells the story of human evolution, from the Paleolithic to the Late Antique Age. Here we can see Ciccirillo "in the flesh" in a careful reconstruction. Finally, there is the Lamalunga Visitor Center, not far from the cave, where we can get closer to speleology.

A bit of history

The extraordinary archaeological find was identified in 1993 by CARS -Centro altamurano ricerche speleologiche- inside the Lamalunga Cave, about 3 km from Altamura, characterized by a system of karst cavities and narrow tunnels. Before they came across the fossil skeleton, they had to descend through a swallowhole about ten meters deep and enter along a path of about sixty meters. To this day, the structure of the cave and the need to preserve its environment and skeleton mean that it is not possible to access it for visits.


Inside the Lamalunga Visitor Center it is possible to have a very special experience in what is called the bat room. Here, in a semi-dark environment, visitors must move inside a maze equipped with a blackout visor, headphones and special helmets with proximity sensors. These send an audible signal to headphones when approaching an obstacle by letting visitors experience firsthand the ultrasonic system used by bats to orient themselves in the dark.

l-uomo-di-altamuraAltamura man, original finds in cave - Ph: Oronzo Rifino (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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Altamura Man is an exceptional case from both a geological and archaeological point of view. It is the only intact human skeletal remains from the Paleolithic period, Homo neanderthalensis who lived between 180,000 and 130,000 years ago in Altamura


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