Trove of Neanderthal Bones Found in Greek Cave
A trove of Neanderthal fossils including bones of children and adults, discovered in a cave in Greece hints the area may have been a key crossroad for ancient humans, researchers say.
The timing of the fossils suggests Neanderthals and humans may have at least had the opportunity to interact, or cross paths, there, the researchers added.
I was kind of hoping for it to be a seriously large collection, but it’s only fragments of 14 individuals. So, not a whole lot of information to be gleaned, but still interesting. Especially the time.
A nearly complete mammoth skeleton has been found during rescue excavations of a Gallo-Roman excavation in France, only the third to be found in the country in 150 years. The discovery of a flint flake at the site has added to the excitement. The tool will be subject to usewear analysis and the skeleton will be analyzed for signs of butchery, to see if there is any evidence for the mammoth being a victim of human hunting. If the evidence bears out a connection between the tool and the skeleton it will be only the third in Europe where Neanderthal tools and mammoth remains have been found together. See the above page for photographs.
There’s more on this story on The Independent.
Back in 2007, Andie originally reported on zombie archaeology at Hierakonpolis (the original page has wonderful pointers on defense as well), but now we have more information about stone-age zombification in Europe. The current evidence? Ten thousand year old skeletal material from Europe that shows that these ancient people were detatching skulls from bodies, after death, and smashing them. During the dark ages, when I was a wee undergraduate (and we read paper books), we were told that there was evidence for “sacrificial murder” and/or cannibalism (specifically eating of the brain — very zombie-like) of a Neanderthal specimen from Guattari Cave (Monte Circeo, Italy). However, Tim White and others did a reanalysis of the material and found it to more likely be due to non-human agents (i.e., not zombies).
(Note the enlarged broken “hole” around where the margins of the foramen magnum should be on the bottom of the Guattari Cave Neanderthal skull).
A recent paper on the PLOS Genetics open-access journal (Sankararaman S, Patterson N, Li H, Pääbo S, Reich D PLoS Genet 8 2012) looks at a topic that has been subjected to much debate over the years – the interbreeding of Neanderthals and modern humans. The abstract for the article, entitled The Date of Interbreeding between Neandertals and Modern Humans, which is free to access, is as follows
Comparisons of DNA sequences between Neandertals and present-day humans have shown that Neandertals share more genetic variants with non-Africans than with Africans. This could be due to interbreeding between Neandertals and modern humans when the two groups met subsequent to the emergence of modern humans outside Africa. However, it could also be due to population structure that antedates the origin of Neandertal ancestors in Africa. We measure the extent of linkage disequilibrium (LD) in the genomes of present-day Europeans and find that the last gene flow from Neandertals (or their relatives) into Europeans likely occurred 37,000–86,000 years before the present (BP), and most likely 47,000–65,000 years ago. This supports the recent interbreeding hypothesis and suggests that interbreeding may have occurred when modern humans carrying Upper Paleolithic technologies encountered Neandertals as they expanded out of Africa.
The PLOS paper has inspired the National Geographic to put together a useful summary of recent research findings about Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, challenging some of the older preconceptions, quoting various experts, including Chris Stringer, and bringing together the information from some relatively recent articles. As with the PLOS Genetics article, the emphasis in the article is on interbreeding with our fair selves, and the degree to which Neanderthals may have displayed “human” traits. If you’ve not had chance to follow the recent work on the subject and feel like sitting down with an easily digestible roundup of it, this is a good place to start.
Neanderthals may have worn dark feathers, archaeologists say
A new analysis of bird bones at Neanderthal sites suggests our extinct human cousins adorned themselves with dark feathers plucked from vultures, jackdaws, eagles and other species.
The study is the latest to challenge the notion that symbolic behavior, like creating art and body decorations, was exclusive to modern humans.
A team of scientists led by researchers at the Gibraltar Museum examined 1,699 sites across Eurasia for evidence of birds and Neanderthals living side-by-side. There was a clear association between Neanderthal occupation and the remains of raptor and corvid species, the researchers reported Monday (Sept. 17) in the journal PLoS ONE.
I guess it doesn’t really surprise me if it turns out to be ‘true’.
Neanderthals were ancient mariners
Ferentinos thinks Neanderthals had a seafaring culture for tens of thousands of years. Modern humans are thought to have taken to the seas just 50,000 years ago, on crossing to Australia.
The journeys to the Greek islands from the mainland were quite short – 5 to 12 kilometres – but according to Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island, the Neanderthals didn’t stop there. In 2008 he found similar stone tools on Crete, which he says are at least 130,000 years old. Crete has been an island for some 5 million years and is 40 kilometres from its closest neighbour – suggesting far more ambitious journeys.
I recall posting something about this earlier but can’t find it. Mostly on not very well dated lithics.
Study into Jersey Neanderthal mammoth hunters
Archaeologists are investigating the truth behind the story that Ice Age Neanderthals in Jersey would push mammoths off cliffs in St Brelade for food.
About 30 years ago, evidence suggested early residents of what is today the island of Jersey chased the giant mammals off the cliffs at La Cotte above Ouaisne.
Dr Geoff Smith, an analyst for Jersey Archive, said: “It was in the 70s and 80s that the hypothesis was put forward that Neanderthals were grouping together to drive herds of woolly mammoth and woolly rhinos off the cliffs and butchering them.”
I guess in the absence of a true ‘buffalo jump’ type of bone bed you’d have to. . .well. . . .I wonder if you could look at breakage patterns that would suggest a fall? I’m not seeing how the health of the animals would indicate driving them off a cliff though, you could still kill a healthy critter although they usually go after old/sick ones.
Neanderthals built homes with mammoth bones
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 44,000 year old Neanderthal building that was constructed using the bones from mammoths.
The circular building, which was up to 26 feet across at its widest point, is believed to be earliest example of domestic dwelling built from bone.
Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago, were initially thought to have been relatively primitive nomads that lived in natural caves for shelter.
IIRC, these aren’t unknown but were later and/or not generally related to Neanders. Actually, I’m thinking this is probably the first structure actually linked to Neanderthals, yes? Caves and rock shelters they occupied regularly, but actual constructions, I did not think so.
Neanderthal survival story revealed in Jersey caves
The La Cotte ravine has revealed the most prolific collection of early Neanderthal technology in North West Europe, including over 250,000 stone tools. These include stones with sharpened edges that could be used to cut or chop, known as hand axes.
“Archaeologists have developed new ways of looking at stone tools since La Cotte de St Brelade was excavated in the 1970s,” says Dr Beccy Scott from the British Museum and the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project.
. . .
“Neanderthals were travelling to Jersey already equipped with good quality flint tools, then reworking them, very, very carefully so as not to waste anything. They were extremely good at recycling.”
Kind of typical behavior depending on tool form, function, technology, raw material availability and type, etc. Harks back in a way to the Binford-Bordes debate on the nature of variability in (that case) the Mousterian.
Humans Crowded Out Neanderthals
A swell of modern humans outnumbered Neanderthals in Europe by nearly 10 to one, forcing their extinction 40,000 years ago, suggests a study of French archaeology sites.
Scientists have long debated what caused the Neanderthals to die off rather suddenly, making way for the thriving population of more advanced Homo sapiens who likely moved in from Africa.
The latest theory, published in the journal Science, is based on a statistical analysis of artifacts and evidence from the Perigord region of southern France, where lies the largest concentration of Neanderthal and early modern human sites in Europe.
And more likely to breed like rabbits! Say, I wonder if Neanderthals had bigger eyes. . . .