A new paper suggests that modern humans reached Western Europe about five thousand years earlier than previous evidence had shown. This is not shocking, but it is a notable, incremental development, that extends the time frame in which Neanderthals and modern humans may have co-existed in each other's proximity in Europe.
Modern humans arrived in the westernmost part of Europe 41,000 -- 38,000 years ago, about 5,000 years earlier than previously known, according to Jonathan Haws, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Louisville, and an international team of researchers. The team has revealed the discovery of stone tools used by modern humans dated to the earlier time period in a report published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The tools, discovered in a cave named Lapa do Picareiro, located near the Atlantic coast of central Portugal, link the site with similar finds from across Eurasia to the Russian plain. The discovery supports a rapid westward dispersal of modern humans across Eurasia within a few thousand years of their first appearance in southeastern Europe. The tools document the presence of modern humans in westernmost Europe at a time when Neanderthals previously were thought to be present in the region. The finding has important ramifications for understanding the possible interaction between the two human groups and the ultimate disappearance of the Neanderthals.
The abstract and article are as follows:
We report the remarkable discovery of an early Aurignacian occupation, ∼5,000 years older than any Upper Paleolithic site in westernmost Eurasia. The archaeological and radiocarbon data provide definitive evidence that modern humans were in western Iberia at a time when, if present at all, Neanderthal populations would have been extremely sparse. This discovery has important ramifications for our understanding of the process of modern human dispersal and replacement of Neanderthal populations. The results support a very rapid, unimpeded dispersal of modern humans across western Eurasia and support the notion that climate and environmental change played a significant role in this process.
Jonathan A. Haws, Michael M. Benedetti, Sahra Talamo, Nuno Bicho, João Cascalheira, M. Grace Ellis, Milena M. Carvalho, Lukas Friedl, Telmo Pereira, Brandon K. Zinsious. "The early Aurignacian dispersal of modern humans into westernmost Eurasia." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2020) 202016062 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2016062117