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16 April 2010
Neanderthals and modern humans in Spain

New research undertaken by the Centre for Prehistoric Archaeological Heritage Studies at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona supports the view that modern humans and Neanderthals may have occupied the same sites at different times, and places the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic transition, the time when Neanderthals died out, between 34,000 and 32,000 years ago.
     The team excavated at Cova Gran, a site of 2,500 square metres, in the south east Pyrenees in Catalonia, Spain, where they uncovered many well preserved materials, including tools from both the Middle (300,000 to 30,000 years ago) and Upper Palaeolithic (40,000 to 10,000 years ago). Different toolmaking techniques suggested that different species made the tools, and Carbon 14 dating showed the area was inhabited by the different species at different times between 34,000 and 32,000 years ago.      
     Although inhabiting Cova Gran at different times, the Neanderthals and modern humans had very similar lifestyles, hunting, gathering, making tools and using fire. However, perforated snail shells found at the site might indicate that modern humans had an increased cognitive capacity, for which there is as yet no evidence during the Middle Palaeolithic, and also that they travelled widely and had social networks through which such items could be shared.
     This research supports similar findings from other excavations at sites around Europe that modern humans replaced Neanderthals between 40,000 to 30,000 years ago, and that the two species did not interact.

Source: Cordis News (6 April 2010)

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