Within decades of finding several teeth over 40,000 years old suggest that ancient humans roamed Europe thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

In 1927 a jawbone and its teeth were discovered in a South England Cave. New dates linked to animal remains in the same cave suggest that the jawbone was more than 41,000 years old.

In the 1960s two teeth excavated from a southern Italian site called Grotta del Cavallo, which was linked to Neanderthals may actually belong to modern humans dating back to 43,000-45,000 years old, marking the oldest anatomically modern human remains identified in Europe.

The new chronometric data, which suggest the dates of 45,000 to 43,000 years ago were obtained from associated shell beads and included within a Bayesian age model.

The study, whose principle author is Stefano Benazzi of the University of Vienna, was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

He writes: “Using two independent morphometric methods based on microtomographic data, we show that the Cavallo specimens can be attributed to anatomically modern humans. The secure context of the teeth provides crucial evidence that the makers of the Uluzzian technocomplex were therefore not Neanderthals.”

Being that the Cavallo specimens are the oldest known European anatomically modern human remains, scientist, suggest there was a rapid distribution of modern humans across the continent before what archeologists call the Aurignacian culture and the disappearance of Neanderthals.

The first humans to reach Europe may have expanded in a burst, Chris Stringer, paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London who was involved in the Kent’s Cavern paper told Nature.

Nature reports that, brief warm spells would have pushed the hunter-gatherers into new territory.

“They followed their food,” Stringer suggested at a press briefing on Wednesday, according to Nature.

Tom Higham, a researcher at the University of Oxford, UK who led the new Kent’s Cavern study and his team extracted and purified collagen in bones from animals including woolly rhinoceroses that were taken from above and below the jawbone, the remains suggested the human bones to be 44,000 and 41,000 years old.

The researchers compared numerous morphological measurements of the molars made by using a computerized tomography scanner to other human and Neanderthal, and concluded that they are a closer match to modern humans, Nature reported.

"What's significant about this work is that it increases the overlap and contemporaneity with Neanderthals," Dr. Higham told BBC Science in Action program.

"We estimate that probably three to five thousand years of time is the amount of the overlap between moderns and Neanderthals in this part of the world," he said.