Global“This is the first time that we have found a modern human...

“This is the first time that we have found a modern human in a Châtelperronian site”: incredible discovery in a Neanderthal cave

This specialist in Neanderthals, an extinct human lineage which populated Eurasia well before the arrival of Homo sapiens, worked on the inventory of human fossils excavated between 1949 and 1963 in Burgundy, in the Renne cave, in Arcy-sur – Cure (Yonne).

The site, discovered by the archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan, had yielded a rich collection of tools and human remains attributed to the Neanderthals, associated with the so-called Châtelperronian craft tradition (between approximately 45,000 and 41,000 years before our era).

While reviewing the 64 fossils, preserved at the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies in Dorgogne, Bruno Maureille came across a bone unlike any other: that of the upper pelvis of a newborn, an ilium (hip fragment) the size of a two euro coin. The morphological difference jumped out at him: “I immediately saw that it was not a Neanderthal baby,” he tells AFP.

The ilium did not have the same length or the same orientation as the others, specifies Juliette Henrion of the laboratory for the study of prehistory (PACEA) at the University of Bordeaux, co-author of the study, pointing out that the Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals show “morphological differences on almost all skeletal bones, in babies as well as adults”.

A 3D “morphometric” analysis of the small bone, compared to two well-preserved iliums from Neanderthal newborns, confirmed that it was an anatomically modern human – although still different from us.

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“Potential contacts”

“This is the first time that we have found a modern human in a Châtelperronian site”, comments Bruno Maureille, who heads the PACEA laboratory, insisting on the fact that the famous modern ilium and the Neanderthal bones come from the same archaeological layer. .

The Châtelperronian culture – named after the “cave of the fairies” discovered at Châtelperron in Auvergne – is characterized by a technique for producing tools cut into long and narrow blades serving as knives, as well as various elements of adornment, details t -he.

Identified on several sites in France and northern Spain, the Châtelperronian emerged at a period of decline in Neanderthal populations and expansion of the first groups of Homo Sapiens in Western Eurasia.

The discovery of the Renne cave therefore raises the question of “potential contacts” between these two biologically different humanities, according to a press release from the CNRS this week.

The study advances several hypotheses, including that of mixed groups, living together on the same site and sharing the same culture. They could also have occupied the cave in turn, succeeding each other “over a few thousand years”, analyzes Juliette Henrion.

This discovery “sheds light on the arrival of modern man in Western Europe”, adds the researcher. “Our results show that the history of settlement of this period is perhaps more complex than previously believed, showing plural occupations of European territory and not a scenario where one group replaced another in such and such a place.” according to Bruno Maureille.

Researchers do not rule out excavating the cave again to find new bones.

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