Feeds

Gibraltar: last outpost of the Neanderthal?

Clinging on to the Rock

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Neanderthals clung on to existence in southern Europe as recently as 24,000 years ago, research on a cave in Gibraltar has revealed today.

Carbon dating evidence from charcoal found inside Gorham's cave brings forward the timing of their extinction by almost 10,000 years. Previous studies said our closest relative probably went the way of the dodo around 33,000 years ago.

The record at Gorham's cave shows neanderthals used it repeatedly over many thousands of years. The new study dug deeper inside the cave to deposits lass likely to be contaminated.

Gorham's cave is on the eastern cliff face of the Rock. A mere 25,000 years ago Europe's climate was lurching, with glaciers and pine forests retreating north. The Atlantic would have stabilised the impact of this locally.

The Natural History Museum's top human evolution bod Professor Chris Stringer, who worked on the new study, told The Guardian: "For the neanderthals, this was a great place to be. The view would have been breathtaking, and they would have literally been able to see where their next meal was coming from. The evidence supports the idea that this was one of their last survival spots, one of their final outposts."

A cache of butchered animal bones inside suggests the community brought their kills inside, wary of scavengers like hyenas which stalked the Mediterranean coasts at the time.

Neanderthals are interpreted as a separate branch of human evolution to the one which gave rise to Homo sapiens in Africa. They probably evolved from an earlier Homo erectus population which left Africa and then became cut off.

Adapted for cold weather, they were shorter and stockier than our ancestors. Despite their brutish reputation, neanderthals actually had larger brains than us but casts of the interior of their skulls do not have the same evolutionary changes it's thought gave modern humans their cognitive edge.

Speculation on what finally did for neanderthals is a favourite topic of debate among experts. They could have been violently exterminated by advancing Homo sapiens, ravaged by our diseases, unable to adapt to the rapidly changing climate and enviroment at the time, or simply out-competed for food and other resources?

Stringer said: "This new evidence from Gibraltar supports the idea that their extinction was a long and complex process, with Neanderthals surviving after 30,000 years in some locations."

"The reasons why they disappeared from the Middle East could be different from those in, say, the Ukraine, and different again from the factors involved in Britain, Germany or Gibraltar."

The possibility some neanderthals were assimilated, interbreeding with the booming modern human population - formerly a taboo suggestion - has found favour of late. The Neanderthal genome project, begun in July this year and expected to take two years, should help answer that one. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.