In recent years there have been a series of discoveries that have revolutionized our understanding of Neanderthals and their extinction in Eurasia. It was widely held in academics that Neanderthals managed to survive in the modern Iberian region longer than elsewhere. However, reexamination of some instruments from very important sites in Spain might indicate that this did not happen and that they were replaced by modern humans in Europe much earlier than previously believed.
Last Neanderthal Fortress
Neanderthals are subspecies of humans that developed in vast areas of Eurasia for hundreds of thousands of years. Once considered primitive and not minded, they were actually very sophisticated and managed to adapt to their harsh environment. They became extinct some time between 40,000 and 32,000 years ago. It is believed that the arrival of modern humans (Homo Sapiens) caused the extinction of Neanderthals in an area from Central Asia to Western Europe. Homo Sapiens is believed to have surpassed Neanderthals at the time of climate change – causing the loss of Neanderthals from Europe.
"Primitive man." (Kovalenko I / Adobe Stock)
According to New Scientist, it is estimated that "the Iberian Peninsula is the last stronghold of Neanderthals." This is because modern humans entered Europe through Eurasian Steppe and could not cross the narrow Straits of Gibraltar. Many researchers argue that modern humans only reached Iberia around 35-32,000 years ago, and this means that Neanderthals continued to thrive there even when they were pushed to extinction elsewhere in Eurasia. When modern humans penetrated Iberia, this caused the last death of the Neanderthal subspecies around 34-32,000 years ago.
This theory is based on archaeological findings from the cave, especially Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar. Experts invented the Mousterian tool associated with Neanderthals dated 32,000 years ago on these sites. However, there is no typical tool & # 39; Aurignacian & # 39; which is usually associated with modern humans have been found in these caves until after this date. This was held to provide evidence on the idea that Iberia was the last stronghold of Neanderthals in Europe.
Stone tools, Neanderthals, Bad Urach, Wittlingen, c. 50,000 to 70,000 years old – Landesmuseum Württemberg – Stuttgart, Germany. (Public area)
Modern humans in Iberia
However, a recent discovery at the famous Bajondillo Cave near Málaga in southeast Spain has opposed this idea. A multinational team is reviewing several artifacts from the cave and they made an amazing discovery. Many tools that are characteristic of Homo Sapiens rather than Neanderthal and New Scientist report that "they can see the moment when Neanderthal-style devices gave way to different human-style tools." This finding could reverse the idea that Neanderthals survived in modern Iberia much more slowly than on all continents.
Bajondillo Cave and Malága Bay (Spain) in the late 1950s. The foreground image shows the Neanderthal skulls (La Chapelle -aux-Saints, France, left) and early Modern Man (from Abri Cro-Magnon, France, right). The left lithic device is in accordance with Mousterian, and right Aurignacian technology, both of which recover in Bajondillo Cave. (CREDIT Prof. Chris Stringer and Musee de l 'Homme)
If the dating of modern human tools is correct, then that would indicate that our species arrived in modern Spain and suppressed the Neanderthal population on a much earlier date. This means that the Neanderthals might die in Iberia around 40,000 years ago, based on what is known from elsewhere. The results of the investigation could mean that Neanderthals disappeared from Europe up to 10,000 years earlier than had ever been believed. On the other hand, that might mean that two early human species coexisted for thousands of years.
These are selected archeological sites in Western Europe with the Aurignacian industry actually or potentially more than 42,000 years old, including the Bajondillo (Spain) Cave. The orange arrow shows a potential expansion route across Europe at low sea levels. The picture on the left shows the Neanderthal skull (La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France) and the Mousterian tool found in Bajondillo Cave. To the right of the image shows the skull of a Modern Man (Abri-Cro-Magnon, France) and an Aurignacian device found in Bajondillo Cave. (University of Seville)
What Does It Mean About Neanderthal Extinction?
A press release from the Natural History Museum (UK) stated that evidence "revived the idea that the Strait of Gibraltar could be a potential deployment route for early modern humans from Africa." If humans were in southern Spain some 42,000 years ago, this would indicate that they may have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar rather than entering Europe through Eurasia. It seems that Homo Sapiens might use coastal routes to migrate out of Africa. According to the Natural History Museum, the findings show that "takeovers by modern humans at the site in Bajondillo were not related to the Heinrich incident (severe cooling)." This might indicate that environmental changes do not contribute to the extinction that eventually occurred. Neanderthals as much as believed.
The discovery near Malaga can change our view of how modern humans displaced Neanderthals and refuted the theory that Iberia was the last fortress of the ancient human species. There are some who refute the dating of the Homo Sapiens tool and argue that the Neanderthals survived in Iberia until the arrival of modern humans. However, there is also evidence from other places that Homo Sapiens replaced Neanderthals in Spain 40,000 years ago, or even earlier.
Top Image: New research shows the extinction of Neanderthals earlier than previously believed. Source: procy_ab / Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan