Last Neanderthals may have mixed with modern humans in southeastern Iberia

December 10th, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 10 (ANI): A new research has suggested that the last Neanderthals may have intermingled with modern humans in southeastern Iberia in Europe.

The research is based on a study of human fossils found during the past decade at the Sima de la Palomas, Murcia, Spain, by Michael Walker, professor at Universidad de Murcia, and colleagues.

It is widely accepted that Upper Paleolithic early modern humans spread westward across Europe about 42,000 years ago, variably displacing and absorbing Neanderthal populations in the process.

However, Middle Paleolithic assemblages persisted for another 8,000 years in Iberia, presumably made by Neanderthals.

It has been unclear whether these late Middle Paleolithic Iberian assemblages were made by Neanderthals, and what the nature of those humans might have been.

New research is now shedding some light on what were probably the last Neanderthals.

The human fossils from the upper levels of the Sima de las Palomas are anatomically clearly Neanderthals, and they are now securely dated to 40,000 years ago.

They therefore establish the late persistence of Neanderthals in this southwestern cul-de-sac of Europe.

This reinforces the conclusion that the Neanderthals were not merely swept away by advancing modern humans.

The behavioral differences between these human groups must have been more subtle than the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic technological contrasts might imply, according to the research.

In addition, the Palomas Neanderthals variably exhibit a series of modern human features rare or absent in earlier Neanderthals, which suggests that they might have mixed with modern humans. (ANI)

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