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20 December 2016
Neanderthals visited seaside cave for 180,000 years

New evidence suggests that Neanderthals visited a cave on what is now one of the Channel Islands near the present coast of Normandy, France, for at least 180,000 years.
     Previous surveys of the La Cotte de Saint Brelade site on the the island of Jersey have focused mostly on concentrations of mammoth remains within the cave, but researchers have now re-examined stone artefacts unearthed in the 1970s.
     We know Jersey as an island, but lower sea levels some 180,000 years ago and until relatively recently meant it was connected to mainland Europe, as was the whole of Britain.
     Andy Shaw, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, England, says: "La Cotte seems to have been a special place for Neanderthals. They kept making deliberate journeys to reach the site over many, many generations. We can use the stone tools they left behind to map how they were moving through landscapes, which are now beneath the English Channel."
     It is not known why Neanderthals returned to La Cotte again and again, but the cave was clearly important to them.
     Beccy Scott, a researcher with the British Museum, says: "We're really interested in how this site became 'persistent' in the minds of early Neanderthals. You can almost see hints of early mapping in the way they are travelling to it again and again, or certainly an understanding of their geography. But specifically what drew them to Jersey so often is harder to tease out. It might have been that the whole Island was highly visible from a long way off, like a way-marker, or people might have remembered that shelter could be found there, and passed that knowledge on."

Edited from Cambridge University Press (21 November 2016), UPI (14 December 2014)

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