Scientists have found that Neanderthals organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans, a discovery that once again shows similarities between these two close cousins.
The findings, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, indicate that Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters.
"There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans," said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. "But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space." Read more.
New genome sequences from two extinct human relatives suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.
The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a different archaic human group, the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting at the Royal Society in London. They suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet unknown human ancestor from Asia.
“What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a ‘Lord of the Rings’-type world — that there were many hominid populations,” says Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London who was at the meeting but was not involved in the work. Read more.
How “smart” were the Neanderthals, really? The question has been at the center of scholarly debate for decades. But the findings of recent research, including archaeological investigations at a site known as Abri du Maras, near Ardèche, southeastern France, have yielded clues that may expand the known repertoire of tools and behaviors that Neanderthals used to survive in the world that existed about 74,000 years ago.
An international team of scientists from France, the U.S. and Spain recently conducted residue analysis and zooarchaeological analysis on stone tools and other materials, including otherwise perishable materials such as wood fragments, recovered from excavations at the archaeological site of Abri du Maras in France’s Middle Rhône Valley. Read more.
The search for a common ancestor linking modern humans with the Neanderthals who lived in Europe thousands of years ago has been a compelling subject for research. But a new study suggests the quest isn’t nearly complete.
The researchers, using quantitative methods focused on the shape of dental fossils, find that none of the usual suspects fits the expected profile of an ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans. They also present evidence that the lines that led to Neanderthals and modern humans diverged nearly 1 million years ago, much earlier than studies based on molecular evidence have suggested.
The study, which will be published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was carried out by an international team of scholars from The George Washington University, Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Austria, Indiana University and Atapuerca Research Team in Spain. Read more.
A record of Neanderthal archaeology, thought to be long lost, has been re-discovered by NERC-funded scientists working in the Channel island of Jersey.
The study, published today in the Journal of Quaternary Science, reveals that a key archaeological site has preserved geological deposits which were thought to have been lost through excavation 100 years ago.
The discovery was made when the team undertook fieldwork to stabilise and investigate a portion of the La Cotte de St Brelade cave, on Jersey’s south eastern coastline.
A large portion of the site contains sediments dating to the last Ice Age, preserving 250,000 years of climate change and archaeological evidence.
The site, which has produced more Neanderthal stone tools than the rest of the British Isles put together, contains the only known late Neanderthal remains from North West Europe. Read more.
Plant material found on Neanderthal teeth suggests they had a better understanding of their food than previously thought.
In a new article published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, Museum anthropologists Laura Buck and Prof Chris Stringer propose that evidence of bitter root plants found on Neanderthal teeth may point to a practice of eating the stomach contents of their prey.
Previous research has suggested that the presence of bitter and nutritionally-poor camomile and yarrow residue on the plaque of 50,000-year-old Neanderthal teeth hints at plants being consumed for medicinal purposes. Buck and Stringer have put forward a different theory.
They suggest instead that the plant compounds could be from the part-digested stomach contents (chyme) of hunted animals. Read more.
Why did anatomically modern humans replace Neandertals in Europe around 40,000 years ago?
One hypothesis suggests that Neandertals were rigid in their dietary choice, targeting large herbivorous mammals, such as horse, bison and mammoths, while modern humans also exploited a wider diversity of dietary resources, including fish. This dietary flexibility of modern humans would have been a big advantage when competing with Neandertals and led to their final success.
In a joint study, Professor Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen, Germany, together with colleagues from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium have found at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains indirect hints of fish consumption by Neandertals. Read more.
A study by a postgraduate researcher at the University of Southampton has found that Neanderthals were more culturally complex than previously acknowledged. Two cultural traditions existed among Neanderthals living in what is now northern Europe between 115,000 to 35,000 years ago.
Dr Karen Ruebens from the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO) and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) examined the design of 1,300 stone tools originating from 80 Neanderthal sites in five European countries; France, Germany, Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands.
Dr Ruebens’ investigations uncovered new evidence that two separate handaxe traditions or designs existed – one in a region now spanning south-western France and Britain – the other in Germany and further to the East. Read more.