Friday, 20 May 2011

Did the Neanderthals Survive Longer Than We Thought?

Neanderthals were an ancient species of human that flourished in Europe for around 200,000 years until modern humans put in an appearance around 40,000 years again. The disappearance of the Neanderthals has caused fierce debate among the experts, with many different theories being put forward and many being shot down again. It has been thought that the last bands of Neanderthals to survive in Europe were living at the extremes of the Iberian Peninsula, in Gibraltar, Spain and Portugal.

However, new archaeological evidence shows that Neanderthals may have survived for much longer than  was previously thought on the icy tundra of sub-Arctic Russia.  A typically Neanderthal tool kit has been excavated at a site called Byzovaya in the Ural Mountains, that comprises of hundreds of stone tools. These ancient stone tools have shown that the site was last occupied around 33,000 years ago and were dated by using both radiocarbon and luminescence dating. Why they are thought to be Neanderthal tools is because they are the classic scrapers and flakes that are associated with this prehistoric species of humans, and are known as Mousterian Technology.

This late date is believed to be after the last Neanderthals had supposedly died out, but although the tool kits are typically Neanderthal, as no human fossil remains have yet been discovered it can not be taken as definitive evidence that the Neanderthals had survived this long. The location of Byzovaya is also surprising as it is 620 miles outside the previously accepted range of the Neanderthal people, and to survive there these hardy early humans would have had to learn to cope with very harsh and cold weather conditions.

So did the Neanderthals really make their last stand in the icy wastes of the sub-Arctic and did they really survive for thousands of years later than was previously thought?

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