Neanderthals disappeared from North West Europe earlier than thought

Neanderthal remains from Belgium are thousands of years older than previously reported, a new paper from a multidisciplinary team of international researchers reveals.

Neanderthal remains from Belgium have long puzzled scientists. Fossil remains from the key site of Spy Cave in Belgium suggested a date of approximately 37,000 years ago, which would place them among the latest surviving Neanderthals in Europe. But sample contamination might have affected these estimates.

Now, a team based in Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit has re-dated Neanderthal specimens from Spy Cave. Most of the dates obtained in this new study have been found to be much older than those obtained previously on the same bone samples—up to 5,000 years older in certain cases. According to the paper, this suggests Neanderthals disappeared from the region 44,200-40,600 years ago, much earlier than previously estimated.

'The results suggest again that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals probably overlapped in different parts of Europe and there must have been opportunities for possible cultural and genetic exchange.'
Professor Tom Higham, Oxford School of Archaeology.

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