Historical story

Krijn, the first Dutch Neanderthal

Yesterday, Minister Plasterk (Education, Culture and Science) unveiled a piece of Krijn's skull in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden (RMO). Krijn is the first Dutch Neanderthal. Wim Weijland (RMO):'We knew that there were Neanderthals, but this fossil is the missing link.'

Krijn is forty to one hundred thousand years old. This makes him the first Dutch Neanderthal. Scientists regularly find Neanderthal stone tools and animal fossil bones on the bottom of the North Sea, but never Neanderthal fossils. The skull fragment of Krijn is the first fossil of a Neanderthal found in the Netherlands. A few years ago, a shell dredger fished up the fossil from Middeldiep, an area in the North Sea fifteen kilometers off the Zeeland coast. An area that at the time of Krijn only consisted of land. 'You could walk from Maastricht to London', says Luc Amkreutz, curator of Prehistory at the RMO.


Employees of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig examined the bone in collaboration with employees of Leiden University. They compared the bone to other Neanderthal skulls. From this comparison, the researchers concluded that Krijn was probably a young man. The eyebrow arch is reminiscent of a man's and some of the skull seams that have not been closed indicate a young human being. Chemical analyzes of the bone showed that Krijn ate a lot of meat. By analyzing a small cavity in the skull, the researchers discovered that Krijn must have had a benign tumor in his head. A tumor from which Krijn did not die.

Missing link

The discovery of the skull fragment is of great scientific importance. On the North Sea floor, scientists regularly find Neanderthal stone tools such as hand axes (the Neanderthal's pocket knife) and quantities of fossil bones of mammoths and other Ice Age animals. But never fossils of Neanderthals. ‘There are bones in the North Sea because they are covered there; don't lie in oxygen," explains Amkreutz. 'Underwater there is still an enormous archive, a wealth of information.' Wim Weijland, director of the RMO:'We have never had such an old human fossil before, our museum is better known for objects such as tools. We knew there were Neanderthals, but this fossil is the missing link.”