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17 January 2016
New findings on prehistoric stone tool industry in Italy

A newly released study suggests that the Uluzzian stone tool industry, generally associated with anatomically modern humans, has its roots in the Mousterian industry, usually associated with Neanderthals.
     The Uluzzian is a flake-dominated industry that exhibits various technological innovations, most of which are associated with the kinds of technology that anatomically modern humans brought to Europe during the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition, arguably sometime between 40,000 and 50,000 years BP.
     In the study, Marco Peresani of the University of Ferrara, Italy, and colleagues conducted an extensive examination of the lithic and bone technologies from assemblages recovered from the Fumane Cave in northern Italy.
     The Uluzzian was first discovered in the early 1960s in the Grotta del Cavallo (Nardò, Apulia) in southern Italy. This cave yielded about 7 meters of archaeological deposits representing the period during which scientists have suggested that Neanderthals were replaced by modern humans. The Uluzzian culture has been identified at more than 20 separate sites across Italy, and is distinguished by a production process that differed from that of the earlier Mousterian (associated with Neanderthals) and the proto-Aurignacian (associated with anatomically modern humans).
     Finds at Grotta del Cavallo include personal ornaments, bone tools and colorants, as well as two teeth identified at the time as belonging to Neanderthals who lived around 200,000 to 40,000 years ago, suggesting that the complex ornaments and tools were also produced by Neanderthals.
     But in a study published in 2011, Stefano Benazzi of the University of Vienna and his colleagues compared digital models of the human remains from Grotta del Cavallo with those of a modern human and a Neanderthal, and he found that "The results clearly show that the specimens from Grotta del Cavallo were modern humans, not Neanderthals as originally thought."
     However, the latest results from Fumane Cave suggest that the Uluzzian cannot be conclusively viewed as an indicator of the first presence of anatomically modern humans in Europe, adding further complexity to the debate.

Edited from Popular Archaeology (11 January 2016)

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