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Late Mousterian Persistence near the Arctic Circle

Science  13 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6031, pp. 841-845
DOI: 10.1126/science.1203866

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Abstract

Palaeolithic sites in Russian high latitudes have been considered as Upper Palaeolithic and thus representing an Arctic expansion of modern humans. Here we show that at Byzovaya, in the western foothills of the Polar Urals, the technological structure of the lithic assemblage makes it directly comparable with Mousterian Middle Palaeolithic industries that so far have been exclusively attributed to the Neandertal populations in Europe. Radiocarbon and optical-stimulated luminescence dates on bones and sand grains indicate that the site was occupied during a short period around 28,500 carbon-14 years before the present (about 31,000 to 34,000 calendar years ago), at the time when only Upper Palaeolithic cultures occupied lower latitudes of Eurasia. Byzovaya may thus represent a late northern refuge for Neandertals, about 1000 km north of earlier known Mousterian sites.

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