A series of lines scratched into rock in a cave near the southwestern tip of Europe could be proof that Neanderthals were more intelligent and creative than previously thought.
The cross-hatched engravings inside Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar are the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art, according to a team of scientists who studied the site. The find is significant because it indicates that modern humans and their extinct cousins shared the capacity for abstract expression.
The study, released Monday by the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined grooves in a rock that had been covered with sediment. Archaeologists had previously found artifacts associated with Neanderthal culture in the overlying layer, suggesting that the engravings must be older, said Clive Finlayson, one of the study’s authors. Read more.
Neanderthals went extinct in Europe about 40,000 years ago, giving them millennia to coexist with modern humans culturally and sexually, new findings suggest.
This research also suggests that modern humans did not cause Neanderthals to rapidly go extinct, as some researchers have previously suggested, scientists added.
Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, and lived in Europe and Asia. Recent findings suggest that Neanderthals were closely related enough to interbreed with ancestors of modern humans — about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin. Read more.
Neanderthals may have caught, butchered and cooked pigeons long before modern humans became regular consumers of bird meat, a new study has revealed.
Close examination of 1,724 bird bones in a cave in Gibraltar revealed cuts, human tooth marks and burns, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday.
The bones were from rock doves—a species that typically nests on cliff ledges and the entrance to large caves—and the ancestors of today’s widespread feral pigeon.
The discarded remains were dated between 67,000 and 28,000 years ago, a period when the cave was occupied by Neanderthals and subsequently by humans. Read more.
The popular conception of the Neanderthal as a club-wielding carnivore is, well, rather primitive, according to a new study conducted at MIT. Instead, our prehistoric cousin may have had a more varied diet that, while heavy on meat, also included plant tissues, such as tubers and nuts.
Scientists from MIT and the University of La Laguna in Spain have identified human fecal remains from El Salt, a known site of Neanderthal occupation in southern Spain that dates back 50,000 years. The researchers analyzed each sample for metabolized versions of animal-derived cholesterol, as well as phytosterol, a cholesterol-like compound found in plants. While all samples contained signs of meat consumption, two samples showed traces of plants—the first direct evidence that Neanderthals may have enjoyed an omnivorous diet. Read more.
Neandertals came into the world face first. Or at least, their lineage did, according to Spanish paleoanthropologists who analyzed 17 ancient skulls from a deep bone pit in the Atapuerca Mountains of northern Spain. The facial bones and teeth of these people, who lived 430,000 years ago, already resemble those of Neandertals, which are known from much younger fossils.
Yet the Sima people also still had relatively small brains and other primitive features, suggesting they were very early members of the lineage that eventually gave rise to Neandertals. The analysis offers a detailed look at the murky origins of our closest cousins and has implications for the evolution of key traits such as brain size. Read more.
Neanderthal cooking likely wouldn’t have won any prizes on Top Chef, but a paleontologist suggests that our ancient cousins knew how to cook a mean stew, without even a stone pot to their name.
"I think it’s pretty likely the Neanderthals boiled," said University of Michigan paleontologist John Speth at a recent meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Austin, Texas. "They were around for a long time, and they were very clever with fire."
But based on evidence from ancient bones, spears, and porridge, Speth believes our Stone Age cousins likely boiled their food. He suggests that Neanderthals boiled using only a skin bag or a birch bark tray by relying on a trick of chemistry: Water will boil at a temperature below the ignition point of almost any container, even flammable bark or hides. Read more.
An analysis of the archaeological records of Neandertals and their modern human contemporaries has found that complex interbreeding and assimilation may have been responsible for Neandertal disappearance 40,000 years ago, in contrast to many current theories, according to results published April 30, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Paola Villa from the University of Colorado Museum and Wil Roebroeks from Leiden University in the Netherlands.
Neandertals thrived in Eurasia for more than 300,000 years but vanished around 40,000 years ago, around the same time that modern humans entered Europe. Archaeologists have developed many theories to explain their disappearance, and many of these suggest that modern-day humans were superior in a wide range of ways, including weaponry and subsistence strategies. Read more.
Neanderthals were remarkably less genetically diverse than modern humans, with Neanderthal populations typically smaller and more isolated, researchers say.
Although Neanderthals underwent more genetic changes involving their skeletons, they had fewer such changes in behavior and pigmentation, scientists added.
Modern humans are the only humans alive today, but Earth was once home to a variety of other human lineages. The Neanderthals were once the closest relatives of modern humans, with the common ancestors of modern humans and Neanderthals diverging between 550,000 and 765,000 years ago. Neanderthals and modern humans later interbred — nowadays, about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of DNA of people outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin. Read more.