Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seven Thousand Years Too Young Neanderthal Tools Found

The consensus had been that Neanderthals were beginning to experience a serious decline in range and numbers by 40,000 years ago, and went extinct around 29,000 years ago. I recited that "fact" in a post just yesterday.

But, today, I learn via Maju that carbon dates from new find "in the valley of Liébana (Cantabria, Spain)," shows evidence of Mousterian industries strongly associated with Neanderthals as recently as 22,000 years ago (after calibrating the date), give or take a century or two, in continuity with similar industries from tens of thousands of years before modern humans were present anywhere in Europe.

The dates are "contemporary with local Gravettian (c. 20,700 BP, uncalibrated, at Morín) and Solutrean cultures (c. 19,000 BP at Las Caldas), almost shoulder with shoulder geographically." Both of these tool industries are completely associated with modern humans, and modern humans tend to be very good at picking up superior technology from the next valley over eventually over a period of centuries.

While this may have been simply one more relict population in a region that has a long history of successful resistance to demographic change that has affected its neighbors, it has also drawn attention to other recent Neanderthal dates that were widely viewed as experimental error in that past that now have greater credibility.

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