Analysis of a bear bone found in an Irish cave has provided evidence of human existence in Ireland 2,500 years earlier than previously thought, academics announced Sunday.
For decades, the earliest evidence of human life in Ireland dated from 8,000 BC.
But radiocarbon dating of a bear's knee bone indicated it had been butchered by a human in about 10,500 BC - some 12,500 years ago and far earlier than the previous date.
"This find adds a new chapter to the human history of Ireland," said Marion Dowd, an archaeologist at the Institute of Technology Sligo who made the discovery along with Ruth Carden, a research associate with the National Museum of Ireland.
The knee bone, which is marked by cuts from a sharp tool, was one of thousands of bones first found in 1903 in a cave in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland.
It was stored in the National Museum of Ireland since the 1920s, until Carden and Dowd re-examined it and applied for funding to have it radiocarbon dated - a technique developed in the 1940s - by Queen's University Belfast.