Neanderthal remains found in Greek cave at ‘crossroads for ancient humans’

Neanderthal remains found in Greek cave at ‘crossroads for ancient humans’

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The age of Neanderthal bones and artefacts discovered in a Greek cave suggests that the area was a key crossroads for Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans, according to researchers.



The DNA of today’s Europeans and Asians shows that Neanderthals occasionally interbred with modern humans, and the find coincides with the discovery of what is believed to be a Neanderthal-modern human hybrid who lived in Italy around 35,000 years ago.

German paleo-anthropologist Katerina Harvati, with colleagues from Greece and France, has been excavating the Kalamakia Cave on Greece’s Mani Peninsula for the past 13 years.  The cave, which stretches about 65 feet deep into limestone cliffs, revealed archaeological deposits dating back to between about 39,000 and 100,000 years ago.  They included 14 specimens of child and adult human remains, including teeth, a skull fragment, a vertebra, and leg and foot bones with bite marks on them.  The teeth strongly appear to be Neanderthal and reveal that there owners had a diverse diet of meat and plants.  Tools, such as scrapers made of flint, quartz and seashells, also appear typically Neanderthal.

Professor Harvati said:

“Greece lies directly on the most likely route of dispersals of early modern humans and earlier hominins into Europe from Africa via the Near East.  It also lies at the heart of one of the three Mediterranean peninsulae of Europe, which acted as refugia for plant and animal species, including human populations, during glacial times — that is, areas where species and populations were able to survive during the worst climatic deteriorations.”

“Until recently, very little was known about deep prehistory in Greece, chiefly because the archaeological research focus in the country has been on classical and other more recent periods.  Kalamakia, together with the single human tooth from the nearby cave site of Lakonis, are the first Neanderthal remains to be identified from Greece and are confirmation of a thriving and long-standing Neanderthal population in the region.”

“The fossil record from Greece potentially holds answers about the earliest dispersal of modern humans and earlier hominins into Europe, about possible late survival of Neanderthals and about one of the first instances where the two might have had the opportunity to interact.”

Kalamakia Cave - image by Katerina Harvati
Kalamakia Cave – image by Katerina Harvati

Source: Live Science

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