(CNN)Altamura Man is one of the most complete and best preserved Neanderthal skeletons ever discovered. His fossilized bones, however, have remained hidden from view at the bottom of a sinkhole near Altamura, a town in southern Italy.
Teeth reveal details about a Neanderthal who fell down a well
That's where he fell and starved to death more than 130,000 years ago.
Cavers came face to face with his skull, covered in limestone deposits, for the first time in 1993. Frustratingly for scientists, though, its inaccessible location -- a 20-minute journey from the surface through narrow crevices -- has made study of the skeleton extremely difficult. The body remains lodged in a small chamber deep in the karst cave system.
"They used the rope to bring me down and many of my colleagues. For me, it was a totally amazing experience. When you get in that corner and you see the skeleton there, you're really blown away," said Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi, a professor in the department of biology at the University of Florence.
"This individual must have fallen down a shaft. Maybe he didn't see the hole in the ground. We think he sat there and died," said Moggi-Cecchi. "The original shaft he fell through is no longer there. It's been filled by sediment so we are confident the entire skeleton is there. No animals could have got there."