PerspectiveAnthropology

Chronicling modern human's arrival in Europe

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Science  15 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6236, pp. 754-756
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab0234

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Summary

The Aurignacian, named after the type site of Aurignac in southern France, is the best known cultural group associated with the spread of modern humans across Europe between about 45,000 and 35,000 years ago. The Protoaurignacian is a cultural group that is well represented in southern Europe and has long been viewed as a precursor of the Aurignacian. On page 793 in this issue, Benazzi et al. (1) use both morphological arguments and ancient DNA to show that two incisors from Protoaurignacian layers at Grotta di Fumane and Riparo Bombrini in Italy are from modern humans and not Neandertals. These results confirm that modern humans were the makers of the Protoaurignacian and thereby help to plot the spread of modern humans across Europe. This process is closely associated with the demise and ultimate extinction of the indigenous Neandertal populations.