Neanderthals and modern man shared a cave?
ancient Aborigines vs Caucasians...Neanderthals and modern man shared a cave?
THE FIRST certain proof that Neanderthal man and modern humans coexisted in Europe has emerged from a cave in central France.
Radiocarbon dates show that modern people camped in the Châtelperron cave, 25 miles northeast of Vichy, about 40,000 years ago, preceded and then followed by two episodes of Neanderthal occupancy.
The differing occupations are demonstrated by their distinctive stone tools: those of the Neanderthals, known as Mousterian after the Dordogne site where they were first recognised, are made mainly from flint flakes. The Aurignacian toolkit of Homo sapiens sapiens uses parallel-sided blades, prised off the flint core in a more complex manufacturing sequence that allows better use of raw materials.
A third set of tools, called the Châtelperronian because they were first recognised there in 19th-century excavations, seem to combine features of both; these tools were found in layers overlying the Mousterian, and clearly developed from it.
There is a longstanding debate among Palaeolithic archaeologists as to whether these Neanderthal flintworkers developed technical innovations independently or absorbed them from contact with newly arrived Aurignacian tool users.
When the Châtelperron site was dug again in the 1950s by Henri Delporte, the remains of animals hunted for their meat, such as red deer and wild cattle, were found along with well-stratified Châtelperronian and Aurignacian tools, the latter sandwiched neatly between two layers of the former.
Although the bones were of no immediate utility, they remained in storage, with Delporte’s notes, until Brad Gravina, a Cambridge archaeology student, found them recently.
“We realised that these bones could be used for radiocarbon dating, a process not available when Delporte’s excavations were carried out,” said Professor Paul Mellars of Cambridge, who with Gravina and the Oxford dating specialist Christopher Bronk Ramsey publishes the evidence in the online edition of Nature today. “They give us the first unambiguous proof that Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans overlapped for at least a thousand years in western Europe.”
The raw dates put the older Châtelperronian levels at about 41,000-39,000 years ago, the Aurignacian between 39,000 and 36,000 and the later Châtelperronian at 36,000- 34,000. They can, however, be correlated with climatic changes detected in deep-sea cores and with Greenland ice cores, to show that the three periods of occupation at Châtelperron occupied a much shorter time, little more than 3,000 years, between about 43,000 and 40,000 years ago.
During this time the climate got colder and then warmed: the first Neanderthal occupation ended as the weather got worse, then modern humans came, only for their predecessors to return as things improved.
“This,” Mellars says, “ demonstrates that modern people were better able to cope with the extremely cold glacial conditions than Neanderthals, probably because they had better technological or cultural ways of coping, especially more efficient cold-weather clothing but possibly better shelter and better control of fire as well.”
Among these cultural innovations was the use of sewn skin clothing fitted to the body with the fur side inwards. The presence of flint end-scrapers for preparing hides and bone awls for piercing them to take leather lacing shows that this was feasible.
“My guess is that the Aurignacian arrivals also had more efficient shelters against the bitter cold, although the Neanderthals certainly built them as well; modern humans may also have had better control of fire,” Mellars says.
More important than these, however, may have been better networking skills, sharing resources and information. The flint used by the humans at Châtelperron was of a higher quality than that of the Neanderthal tools: the latter obtained their raw materials locally, while the Aurignacian material came from more than 100km away