Thursday, September 14, 2006

Last Stand of the Neanderthals?

Neanderthals survived longer than thought. This article is from today's issue of USA Today. Research suggests Neanderthals survived for thousands of years longer than thought, with small bands finding refuge in a massive cave in Spain. They used the cave in Gibraltar at least 2,000 years later than expected.

Clive Finlayson of The Gibraltar Museum reported the findings Wednesday with colleagues on the website of the journal Nature. The citation for the article is Finlayson C., et al. Nature, advanced online publication doi : 10.1038/nature05195 (2006). The paper says charcoal samples from fires that Neanderthals set in the cave are about 28,000 years old and maybe just 24,000 years old.

From the site:

Scientists have long been fascinated by the last days of the Neanderthals. Were they doomed because they couldn't compete with the encroaching modern humans for resources, or because they caught new germs from the moderns, or because of climate change? Did the two groups have much contact, and what kind?

They didn't appear to encounter each other in Gibraltar at Gorham's Cave. More than 5,000 years separate the last traces of the Neanderthals from the earliest evidence of modern humans, Finlayson said. He believes the area near the cave contained small bands of Neanderthals and of advancing moderns at the same time, but over a large and varied landscape. So it's not clear if the two groups ever met, he said.

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