Friday, November 9, 2012

Neandertals might have produced sophisticated tools, body ornaments

A population of Neandertals produced sophisticated bone tools and body ornaments more than 40,000 years ago, a study finds. Jean-Jacques Hublin and colleagues analyzed bone samples from two sites in France: Grotte du Renne and Saint Césaire, where Neandertal remains are associated with artifacts from a period called the Châtelperronian.

The researchers extracted collagen from the samples and performed radiocarbon dating using an accelerator mass spectrometer. At Grotte du Renne, the Châtelperronian artifacts were dated to between 44,500 and 41,000 years ago, and a Neandertal tibia bone from Saint Césaire was found to date close to 41,950 years ago. These ages are significant because modern humans replaced the last known European Neandertals starting around 50,000 years ago. Given the dating results, the authors conclude that Neandertals must have made the bone tools and body ornaments found at the sites.

The findings contradict prior research that concluded that modern humans made the Châtelperronian items. However, because Neandertals produced body ornaments only after modern humans arrived in neighboring regions, cultural exchange likely took place between modern humans and Neandertals, according to the authors.

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