Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

When Neanderthals Walked with Modern Humans

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Archaeologists at The Australian National University and The University of Sydney have opened a window into one of the most exciting periods in human history – the transition between Neanderthals and modern humans.

An archaeological dig in a cave near the Czech border with Austria has provided a timeline of evidence from 10 sedimentary layers spanning 28,000 to 50,000 years ago, when our modern human ancestors first arrived in Europe. The dig has unearthed more than 20,000 animal bones as well as stone tools, weapons and a bead engraved from bone that is the oldest of its kind in Central Europe.

ANU archaeologist Dr Duncan Wright said the project was so important because it gives some of the earliest evidence of modern human activity in the region at a time when humans were moving substantial distances and bringing with them portable art objects. “In the early layers, the items we’ve found are locally made flakes, possibly used by small communities living and hunting in the vicinity to kill animals or prepare food, but around 40,000 years ago we start to see objects coming from long distances away, ” Wright said.

“Dating from this same time we unearthed a bead made from mammal bone. This is the oldest portable art object of its type found anywhere in Central Europe, and provides evidence of social signalling, quite possibly used as a necklace to mark...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.