News – EN – The disappearance of Neanderthals would be older than we thought


According to a study published Monday in the scientific journal “Pnas”, the specimens from the Spy cave in Belgium are in fact old d ‘between 44,200 and 40,600 years Experts used a method that improves the way samples are processed

When did Neanderthals disappear? The question has stirred scientists for a long time Human remains from a cave in Belgium, analyzed using a new technique, now contribute to the debate by turning out to be much older than previously considered

According to previous radiocarbon dating, specimens from Spy Cave in Belgium, where many human remains have been found since the 19th century, date back only 24,000 years But according to a study published Monday in the scientific journal Pnas, they are in fact between 44,200 and 40,600 years old.The study concludes that the Neanderthals “disappeared from northern Europe () much earlier than previously suggested “

Read also the article of November 7, 2014: The meeting between “Sapiens” and Neanderthal dated thanks to ancient DNA

A multidisciplinary team from Belgium, Great Britain and Germany has developed a method to prepare the samples, allowing to avoid any external contamination, explained to Agence France-Presse (AFP) one of the co-authors of the study, Thibaut Deviese, from the University of Oxford and Aix-Marseille

Having a better idea of ​​when they disappeared is considered an important first step in better understanding its nature, as well as why it ultimately gave way to modern humans.

The method still relies on radiocarbon (radioactive variants of carbon, like carbon-14), which is considered the best dating method, but improves the way samples are processed All living things absorb carbon from the atmosphere or from food, including carbon-14, which decays over time Since plants and animals stop absorbing it when they die, what is left in matter helps determine when this being lived.

For bones, scientists extract the part made of collagen for analysis, because it is organic

“What we have done goes further”, explains Thibaut Deviese This is because the environment where the remains were found can contaminate the samples. So the researchers focused on molecules called amino acids that they were absolutely certain were part of collagen. The authors also dated the remains of two other sites in Belgium, Fonds-de-Foret and Engis, with comparable results.

“Almost two centuries after the discovery of Engis’ Neanderthal child, we were able to give him a reliable age,” said Thibaut Deviese“Dating all these specimens from Belgium was very exciting, as they played a major role in the understanding and definition of Neanderthals.”

There is evidence that it may have survived longer in other regions than in Belgium, the study notes, however.”Dating is crucial in archeology, because without a reliable framework of chronology, one cannot be sure of understanding the relations between the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens”, he stressed.

Some stone tools have been attributed to Neanderthals, which has been interpreted as a sign of their cognitive development, for example he detailed However, if it turns out that they did not exist as long as expected, then these objects must be re-examined to determine if they were really their work.

The disappearance of Neanderthals could be linked to climatic causes, too much inbreeding, or competition between species, recalls the study – but this is another burning question which she does not answer

Neanderthal, Human, Chronological dating

News – EN – The disappearance of Neanderthals is older than we thought
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