TAUTAVEL, France, July 28 (UPI) -- Two 16-year-old archaeology students, Camille and Valentin, have made what experts say is a remarkable discovery inside a French cave -- a 550,000-year-old hominid tooth.
The tooth was found while the two students volunteered as diggers at an educational excavation site inside Caune de l'Arago cave, near Tautavel, a village in southwestern France.
"I spotted a small piece of enamel sticking," Valentin told French news channel BFMTV. "We had to be quite careful in the search."
Found among a layer of the cave determined to be half a million years old, researchers believe the tooth belonged to an early ancestor of modern humans. It could be the oldest human remains ever unearthed in France, researchers say.
"Obviously, it's a shock -- a beautiful encounter through time," Amelie Vialet, an anthropologist who was overseeing the student dig, told radio station France Bleu.
The first modern humans (Homo sapiens) didn't arrive in Europe until 50,000 years ago, but the ancestors of early humans arrived much earlier.
Hominid remains dating more than 1.3 million years old have been discovered in Spain, but in France, the oldest human fossil is the 450,000 year-old Homo erectus skeleton called Tautavel Man -- also found at the Arago cave.