First evidence of early Neanderthal extinction found in Spain

(ORDO NEWS) — Anthropologists have discovered in northern Spain the first evidence that the Neanderthals began to die out long before the Cro-Magnons entered Europe. Scientists made this discovery during excavations at the Neanderthal camp of Aranbalts-2, according to an article published in the journal PLoS One.

“We carried out the first complete excavations at the territory of the Neanderthal site Aranbaltsa-2, located not in a cave, but in the open. They showed that the local groups of Neanderthals belonging to the Mousterian culture died out long before the representatives of the new Châtelperon culture settled in the north of Spain “, the researchers wrote.

A group of European anthropologists led by Joseb Rios-Garais, curator of the Archaeological Museum of Bilbao (Spain), discovered the first possible traces that Neanderthals began to die out long before the first Homo sapiens entered Europe.

They came to this conclusion during excavations at the camp of Aranbaltsa-2, located in the vicinity of the city of Barrica in northern Spain.

It is a small settlement of Neanderthals, the last inhabitants of which belonged to the so-called Châtelperon culture. Current scientists estimate that Aranbaltsa-2 was inhabited about 80,000 years ago and abandoned about 39,000 years ago, around the same time that Neanderthals disappeared from most regions of Europe.

The history of the extinction of the Neanderthals

Scientists have long been interested in how the carriers of the Châtelperon culture penetrated Western Europe about 50-60 thousand years ago and how they replaced the local tribes belonging to the more ancient Mousterian culture.

A lot of controversy is caused by the origin and species of the carriers of the Chatelperon culture, since some anthropologists doubt that they were Neanderthals.

Rios Garais and his colleagues tried to get an answer to these questions, for which they studied about five thousand Mousterian and Chatelperon tools found at the Aranbaltsa-2 camp, as well as at neighboring sites of Neanderthals who lived approximately in the same historical era.

During this analysis, scientists studied in detail the technique of making axes and other tools, and also calculated their age using radioisotope and geochronological methods.

An analysis of these tools confirmed their Neanderthal origin and, at the same time, unexpectedly showed that the artifacts of the two Neanderthal cultures belonged to completely different chronological eras, which did not intersect in any way.

This, as anthropologists explain, suggests that all representatives of the Mousterian culture disappeared long before the first carriers of the Chatelperon culture penetrated into northern Iberia, which happened about 45 thousand years ago.

Such a scenario, according to Rios-Garays and his colleagues, speaks in favor of the fact that Neanderthals began to die out even before the first Cro-Magnons penetrated Europe.

The subsequent study of the sites of the last Homo neanderthalensis and more detailed reconstructions of the climate of the Middle Paleolithic, as anthropologists hope, will reveal the reason for the disappearance of the first inhabitants of Europe.

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