The earliest known cave paintings fuel arguments about whether Neanderthals were the mental equals of modern humans.
In a damp Spanish cave, Alistair Pike applies a small grinder to the world’s oldest known paintings. Every few minutes, the dentist-drill sound stops and Pike, an archaeologist from the University of Southampton, UK, stands aside so that a party of tourists can admire the simple artwork — hazy red disks, stencilled handprints, the outlines of bison — daubed on the cave wall tens of thousands of years ago. He hopes that the visitors won’t notice the small scuff marks he has left.
In fact, Pike’s grinder — and the scalpel that he wields to scrape off tiny samples — is doing no harm to the actual paintings, and he is working with the full approval of the Spanish authorities. Pike is after the crust of calcite that has built up over the millennia from groundwater dripping down the wall. The white flecks that he dislodges hold a smattering of uranium atoms, whose decay acts as a radioactive clock. A clock that has been ticking ever since the calcite formed on top of the art. Read more.
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.
Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, apparently even occasionally interbreeding with our ancestors. Neanderthals entered Europe before modern humans did, and may have lasted there until about 35,000 years ago, although recent findings have called this date into question. Read more.
The area which gave rise to the name Neanderthal will run out of public funding for archaeology in two years - North Rhine-Westphalia state government is phasing out its financial support
The region is riddled with the remains of all sorts of ancient societies and attracts archaeologists from around the world.
With Roman settlements along the River Rhine and as the region where Neanderthals were discovered, and thus named after, NRW has long been a source of learning about our predecessors.
But this could soon die out, as the Der Spiegel news magazine reported on Thursday that the state government plans to cut its funding each year until 2015, when there will be nothing left at all. Read more.
Rabbits are small, fast, and devilishly hard to catch. And that could have had dire consequences for Neanderthals.
A new study suggests that an inability to shift from hunting large mammals to wild rabbits and other small game may have contributed to the downfall of European Neanderthals during the Middle Paleolithic period, about 30,000 years ago.
“There have been some studies that examined the importance of rabbit meat to hominins”—or early human ancestors—”but we give it a new twist,” said study lead author John Fa, a biologist at the United Kingdom’s Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Imperial College London.
“We show in our study that [modern humans] used rabbits extensively, but Neanderthals didn’t.” Read more.
The Stone Age could just as easily be called the Roam Age.
Two new studies published February 27 in the Journal of Human Evolution advance the idea that ancient people and Neandertals walked or ran far greater distances than any human groups that followed, including more recent hunter-gatherers and today’s long-distance runners. Fossils of humans and their beetle-browed evolutionary cousins display signs of extremely extended travel that occurred between roughly 120,000 and 10,000 years ago, Colin Shaw and Jay Stock, biological anthropologists at the University of Cambridge in England report in one of the studies.
Shaw and Stock conclude that the Stone Age crowd moved around considerably more than southern Africans from a few thousand years ago who hunted over an area of 5,200 to 7,800 square kilometers. Highly trained athletes today who run 130 to 160 kilometers every week come in third in this mobility comparison. Read more.
Neanderthals may have died out earlier than before thought, researchers say.
These findings hint that Neanderthals did not coexist with modern humans as long as previously suggested, investigators added.
Modern humans once shared the planet with now-departed human lineages, including the Neanderthals, our closest known extinct relatives. However, there has been heated debate over just how much time and interaction, or interbreeding, Neanderthals had with modern humans.
To help solve the mystery, an international team of researchers investigated 215 bones previously excavated from 11 sites in southern Iberia, in an area known as Spain today. Read more.
La Roca dels Bous, a Paleolithic site located near the southeastern Pyrenees of Spain, has been cited by archaeologists as a key location with Neanderthal-related remains that may shed light on the changes that may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals in Europe. Now, a team led by Dr. Rafael Mora of the University Autonomous of Barcelona will be returning to the site in 2013 to excavate and explore lithic assemblages, fossil bone, and other remains that may date as far back as 50,000 BP.
The excavations may help research efforts focused on constructing a better understanding of the factors that may have contributed to the decline and eventual disappearance of humanity’s most closely related extinct human species. Read more.
Rome - Researchers are poring over thousands of tiny artifacts - including a child’s milk tooth - found in a southern Italian cave that appears to have been shared by both Neanderthals and early man.
The caves of Roccia San Sebastiano, which overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Naples, are being combed for traces of those who once lived there.
On the slopes of the medieval fortress of Montis Dragonis, near Mondragone in Caserta province, researchers say they’ve uncovered layers of history, rich in early historical finds.
The discovery is telling them “a story of the evolution that goes from 40,000 to 20,000 years ago, when the cave was used for uninterrupted time by Neanderthals and Sapiens,” says prehistoric archaeologist Carmine Collina. Read more.