• Scientists from the University of Oviedo contribute to finding out the pace of Neanderthal extinction

    August 21, 2014

    The journal Nature publishes a research that details the use of new scientific Carbon 14 techniques that reveal that Neanderthals went extinct 40,000 years ago and co-existed for a time with modern humans

    Two scientists working at the dig site of El Sidrón (© Research team of El Sidrón).

    A research published by the journal Nature, led by Oxford University and which has the participation of scientists from the University of Oviedo, reveals that the disappearance of Neanderthals in Europe took place between 41,000 and 39,000 years ago. The research was performed on 40 dig sites with Mousterian and Neanderthal remains spanning from Russia to Spain, including La Viña and El Sidrón.

    The data suggests that the dissemination of anatomically modern humans (AMH) was geographically restricted at first, and then progressively grew in space and time. Moreover, the results show that more than a quick substitution of the native European Neanderthals by the incoming AMHs, there was a biological and cultural mosaic that lasted for several thousands of years; and the combination of these two groups indicates that the Mousterian era finished in a period quite similar throughout the European and Asian geography in dig sites that cover areas from the Black Sea and the Near East to the Atlantic coasts, and therefore Neanderthals did not survive past 41,000 to 39,000 years ago (calibrated dates, 95.4% of probability).

    Nevertheless, the research points out that Neanderthals and modern humans did not co-exist in the Iberian Peninsula. According to Marco de la Rasilla, the information shows that the model that was valid until now must be discarded. This model posits that the Peninsula constituted a dead end and that the Neanderthals managed to co-exist until 30,000 years ago, at least in the Southern portion of the Iberian Peninsula. The results obtained now do not reproduce any of the datings that supported this theory, and everything points towards the most probable model being that there were no Neanderthals when modern humans reached the Peninsula.

    More precisely, Asturias has contributed to this research with the dig sties of La Viña (Oviedo) and El Sidrón (Piloña). The former, excavated and researched by Professor Javier Fortea, contains a wide archeological Paleolithical sequence with an important registry belonging to the Mousterian and Aurignacian periods, which have been the subject of a PhD Thesis by David Santamaría Álvarez, and the latter contains a large number of Neanderthal bone remains.

    The article is signed by, among others, Marco de la Rasilla Vives and David Santamaría Álvarez of the Area of Prehistory of the Department of History of the University of Oviedo.