In DepthHUMAN EVOLUTION

Oldest Homo sapiens bones found in Europe

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Science  15 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6492, pp. 697
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6492.697

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Summary

Europe has long been home to Neanderthals, who lived here from 400,000 to 40,000 years ago. But about 47,000 years ago, a new group of people took shelter in a cave in Bulgaria. There, they butchered bison, wild horses, and cave bears, leaving the cave floor littered with bones and a wealth of artifacts—ivory beads, pendants made with cave bear teeth, and stone blades stained with red ochre. Researchers used a cutting-edge toolkit of their own to identify a molar and five bone fragments as belonging to Homo sapiens, our own species. Precise new dates show these cave dwellers lived as early as 47,000 years ago, which makes them the earliest known members of our species in Europe. The work is also reigniting a long-standing debate about how Neanderthals and moderns may have influenced each other—because Neanderthals crafted similar artifacts a few thousand years later.

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