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Lots on Neanderthals

10 May 2011

For example, at http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/april-2011/article/caves-in-spain-y… there is a fascinating story about a Spanish cave that at some point during the Pleistocene became filled with soil, rocks, plant and animal remains and over time hardened into what is known as a breccia deposit. The breccia was found to be rich in fossils and Paleolithic artifacts and the deposit has been dated between 75,000 and 60,000 years ago. This is at the heart of the Ice Age but investigators have dug out fossilised bones of lions, horses, deer, ibex, hyenas, hippopotamus, elephants, rhinoceros, aurochs, tortoise, and lots of different birds – and quite apart from the fact that we may wonder how all these animals became trapped in a cave, how did they become part of a breccia deposit? It is sedimentary in origin – and that might be the key. Analysis of pollen samples suggested mild and moist conditions prevailed at the time – quite unlike the popular picture of the Ice Age in Europe that most of us hold. Scientists say there must have been an interstadial – a warm period between two cold phases of climate, and the last Ice Age, from ice core evidence, had a multitude of small warming events – but long enough to attract such a varied fauna and flora? In addition to the animals, to date some 150 fossilised bones of Neanderthals have been found.

At www.nytimes.com/2011/05/10/science/10neanderthal.html is a report on research that suggests Neanderthals died out and modern humans closely followed – and no overlap between the two occurred (apart from possibly a small phase when a remnant Neanderthal population persisted in isolated environments). From a catastrophist angle this makes sense – and perhaps no overlap at all occurred. The problem has always been that C14 dating methodology does not work beyond 40,000BC and is very unreliable in the 20,000 to 40,000 year band – possibly all C14 dates prior to the end of the Ice Age are unreliable. This has resulted, over the years, in a wide range of dates for Neanderthals at their point of demise, with different laboratories providing younger dates than others. Now, we have a new and improved method of C14 dating for this period of time and it is the application of this that has suggested there was little, if any, overlap between Neanderthals and modern humans. The said article was published in PNAS, May 8th 2011. The same story is at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/05/were-neandertals-and-moder… and also at www.pasthorizons.com/index.php/archives/05/2011/neanderthals-extinction-… where it is suggested Neanderthals probably died out earlier than currently thought and there was little contact with modern humans. However, in this instance, the research took place at a cave in the northern Caucasus, in what is now Russia, and Neanderthals probably died out before modern humans appeared in the region. 

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