Homo sapiens: In Europe earlier than we thought

L ‘sane man He ventured into the lands of Neanderthals in Europe much earlier than previously thought, according to research published in the journal to know. So far, ancient archaeological finds have indicated that Neanderthals (neanderthalthe brain-like ancestors of Sapiens) from the European continent about 40,000 years ago, shortly after the arrival of their “cousin” Sapiens (sane man, modern humans), which occurred about 5,000 years ago. The new research, by a group of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists led by Ludovic Selimak of the University of Toulouse, delays the arrival ofsane man In Western Europe about 54,000 years ago.

like Pompeii. And the “surprises” did not end there: according to the researchers, the two types of humans took turns living in the “Mandarin Cave” in what is now the Rhone region in southern France and where the research is taking place. The Mandarin site, first studied in 1990, includes layer upon layer of archaeological remains dating back more than 80,000 years. “The Cave of a Mandarin resembles a type of Pompeian Neanderthal, without catastrophic events, but with a continuous filling of sand in the cave gradually deposited by strong winds, the Mistral,” explains Slimak.

The so-called “layer E” has emerged, with at least 1,500 flint points sculpted with much greater precision than the points and blades found in the layers above and below. They are very small in size, some were less than a centimeter long: “They seemed to be uniform, that is, they worked up to a millimeter: something we had never seen before by Neanderthals,” the researcher explains.

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Mandarin Cave is located in the Rhone region of southern France. The cave was inhabited by Neanderthals and Sapiens “in turn”: sapiens left recognizably carved stones and at least a child’s molar.
© Ludovic Selimak

deciduous age. The found points were to be used to make arrows that were actually unknown in Europe at the time. Slimak attributes this production to a culture called “Neronian” associated with several sites found in the Rhone region. In 2016, Selimak and his group visited Harvard University’s Peabody Museum to compare their findings to a group of artifacts found at the site of Qasr Akil at the foot of Mount Lebanon, one of the key sites for the region’s expansion. sane man Eastern Mediterranean. They were convinced: the similarities and techniques used to build the arrowheads confirmed that the Mandarin finds were the first sapiens to be found in Europe. Now a brown tooth present in “class E” confirms the hypothesis.

Human remains of Mandarin Cave.  The nine teeth in the cave layers are all Neanderthals except for those in layer E which are dairy and belong to Homo sapiens.

Human remains from a Mandarin cave (France). The nine teeth in the cave layers are all Neanderthals except for those in layer E, which are dairy and belong to Homo sapiens.

In the cave, researchers found a total of nine teeth, belonging to six individuals. It was studied by Clément Zanoli, a paleoanthropologist at Purdue University, who, using microscopic imaging, similar to technology used in medicine, came up with a certain verdict. Layer “E” deciduous teeth are the only rational teeth present at the site. “This fossil molar of a modern human child provides the first evidence of the oldest sapiens in Western Europe,” he said in a statement to the Natural History Museum in London.

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Slimak’s group using a pioneering technique, thermal synchronization technology (the decomposition of the layers of soot imbuing cave walls and traces of ancient fires) showed that “modern human populations occupied the Rhone lands about 40 years ago,” explains Slomak. “This allows us to confirm that at a certain point, the two peoples can coexist in the cave or, at least, in the same area.”

Neanderthal guides. Could Neanderthals serve as cluessane man To lead him to the best flint quarries, some of which were 90 km from the cave. “There is nothing new under the sun: this is what happened when Europeans began to colonize the Americas or Australia,” the researcher noted. “The Mandarin discoveries are really exciting and are another piece of the puzzle of how and when modern humans reached Europe,” concludes Chris Stringer, co-author of the study and a specialist in human evolution at the Natural History Museum in London. “Understanding more about the interaction between modern humans and other hominins in Eurasia is key to understanding more about their interactions and how we became the last remaining human species.”

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