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Current Affairs

Modern humans reached western Europe earlier than estimated

Date: 11 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Modern humans arrived in westernmost Europe 41,000 to 38,000 years ago, about 5,000 years earlier than previously known, according to a new research.

 

Background

Researchers discovered stone tools used by modern humans dated to the earlier time period in a cave near the Atlantic coast of central Portugal. The tools document the presence of modern humans at a time when Neanderthals were thought to be present in the region.

 

Details

  • The discovery supports a rapid westward dispersal of modern humans across Eurasia within a few thousand years of their first appearance in south-eastern Europe.

  • The finding has important ramifications for understanding the possible interaction between the two human groups and the ultimate disappearance of the Neanderthals.

  • This discovery offers significant new evidence that will help shape future research investigating when and where anatomically modern humans arrived in Europe and what interactions they may have had with Neanderthals.

  • Researchers used state-of-the-art bone pre-treatment and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) to date the bones that show evidence of butchery cut marks and intentional breakage by humans to extract bone marrow.

  • The dating results place the modern human arrival to the interval between 41,000 and 38,000 years ago. The last Neanderthal occupation at the site took place between 45,000 and 42,000 years ago.

  • While the dates suggest that modern humans arrived after Neanderthals disappeared, a nearby cave has evidence for Neanderthals' survival until 37,000 years ago. The two groups may have overlapped for several thousand years in the area.

  • If the two groups overlapped for some time in the highlands of Atlantic Portugal, they may have maintained contacts between each other and exchanged not only technology and tools, but also mates.

  • Despite the overlap in dates, there does not appear to be any evidence for direct contact between Neanderthals and modern humans.

  • Neanderthals continued to use the same stone tools they had before modern humans arrived, bringing a completely different stone technology.