Dentist Alarmed to Spot Human Jawbone in Parents’ Tile Floor

Tile Driver

A dentist was in for a huge shock when he looked down at his parents' new tile floor and saw what appeared to be the fossil of a human mandible.

The dentist, who has not provided media outlets with his name to protect his privacy and that of his parents, first made waves on the r/fossils subreddit when he posted a photo of the jawbone in question to get information from others about it.

"This looks like a section of mandible," the user, Kidipadeli75, wrote in his post. "Could it be a hominid? Is it usual?"

In a subsequent interview with the Washington Post, the semi-anonymous dentist explained that to his eyes, the fossil found in the travertine stone tile "looked very familiar."

"As I am specialized in implant dentistry," he said, "I work with this kind of image everyday."

[let's never do one line of text between an embed and an h2 -- looks too lonely imo]

Denzili Days

As both WaPo and the assembled experts of Reddit discovered, finding fossils in travertine tile, a type of limestone imported from Turkey, isn't all that uncommon — but finding one that appeared to belong to a human ancestor is quite rare indeed.

Mehmet Cihat Alcicek, a professor at Turkey's Pamukkale University who plans to study the mandible slice, told the newspaper that the tile was found in a quarry in the Denizli Basin. Located in the western part of the country, the travertine there had previously been dated to between 1.8 million to 0.7 million years old, suggesting that whatever ancient human ancestor the jawbone belonged to, they did not die recently.

A popular form of limestone used for architecture, Denizili travertine has in the past housed fossils from mammoths, rhinoceroses, and other animals. In fact, there is currently an incredible fully-preserved crab fossil that was found inside a piece of Denzili travertine tile for sale on eBay right now.

Human remains have been more elusive, but it has happened on at least one occasion. In 2002, Alcicek happened upon a slice of what appeared to be a human skull on a shelf in a Turkish tile factory. He brought the slab, which was about an inch thick to his colleague John Kappelman, a paleoanthropologist anthropologist at the University of Texas at Austin, and they eventually determined that it likely had belonged to a Homo erectus — the first specimens from that human ancestor ever found in the country.

As for the mandible found by u/Kidipadeli75, Kappelman and Alcicek plan to study it to determine its precise species of origin, perhaps 3D printing a version of it or even trying to extract DNA from it. Once they do, it will likely live in the Denizli Museum alongside the skull slice.

Looking forward, the UT paleontologist quipped that he's always on the hunt for more tile specimens.

"Every time I am in Home Depot," he said, "I go through the travertine tile looking for fossils!"

More on fossils: Scientists Discover Bizarre and Ancient Fossilized Forest