Neanderthals: New Findings & Theories

EnolaGaia

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... This got me thinking that, after some 150,000 years were Neanderthals developing more gracile features and were the last of the Neanderthals physically almost indistinguishable from contemporaneous European Homo Sapiens the Cro-Magnon?
First, a cautionary note ...

I'm not sure what the known range of Neanderthal cranial thicknesses is believed to have been. I'm also uncertain whether we have enough Neanderthal skulls from a wide enough swath of their era to reasonably determine such a range, much less any trend in thickness during the time they existed.

Now, having said that ...

It's widely presumed that Neanderthals and homo sapiens sapiens interbred, if only in particular places and times. If there were a trend toward thinner and / or more gracile Neanderthal skulls over the millennia, it may well have resulted from genetic input from the more modern form. I tend to think this would be the more likely explanation for any thinning / gracile trend.

However ... In principle there's no reason why Neanderthals couldn't have been evolving less robust skull structures on their own.
 

blessmycottonsocks

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First, a cautionary note ...

I'm not sure what the known range of Neanderthal cranial thicknesses is believed to have been. I'm also uncertain whether we have enough Neanderthal skulls from a wide enough swath of their era to reasonably determine such a range, much less any trend in thickness during the time they existed.

Now, having said that ...

It's widely presumed that Neanderthals and homo sapiens sapiens interbred, if only in particular places and times. If there were a trend toward thinner and / or more gracile Neanderthal skulls over the millennia, it may well have resulted from genetic input from the more modern form. I tend to think this would be the more likely explanation for any thinning / gracile trend.

However ... In principle there's no reason why Neanderthals couldn't have been evolving less robust skull structures on their own.
Absolutely agree.
The Gibraltar 1 skull though has been classed as Neanderthal rather than Neanderthal/Sapiens hybrid.
I reckon she would have been quite a looker in her day and I can see why a red-blooded Cro-Magnon could conceivably have taken a fancy to her.

Neanderthal.jpg
 

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First, a cautionary note ...

I'm not sure what the known range of Neanderthal cranial thicknesses is believed to have been. I'm also uncertain whether we have enough Neanderthal skulls from a wide enough swath of their era to reasonably determine such a range, much less any trend in thickness during the time they existed.

Now, having said that ...

It's widely presumed that Neanderthals and homo sapiens sapiens interbred, if only in particular places and times. If there were a trend toward thinner and / or more gracile Neanderthal skulls over the millennia, it may well have resulted from genetic input from the more modern form. I tend to think this would be the more likely explanation for any thinning / gracile trend.

However ... In principle there's no reason why Neanderthals couldn't have been evolving less robust skull structures on their own.
A study on the thickness range of modern adult human (both male and female) found neither cranial diploeic thickness nor cranial total thickness is statistically significantly associated with the sex, weight or stature of an individuals. Makes me wonder why the neanderthals skull thickness would vary unless it was evolutionary. They did exist for some ~ 400 thousand years.

Below a published medical paper on measured human skull thickness
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1351187/
 

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Absolutely agree.
The Gibraltar 1 skull though has been classed as Neanderthal rather than Neanderthal/Sapiens hybrid.
I reckon she would have been quite a looker in her day and I can see why a red-blooded Cro-Magnon could conceivably have taken a fancy to her.

View attachment 19638
She's really rocking that monobrow!
 
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Maybe not smarter than the average hominin.

Neanderthals and other early humans produced a tarry glue from birch bark; this was long considered proof of a high level of cognitive and cultural development.

Researchers had long believed that birch tar—used by the Neanderthals to make tools—could only be created through a complex process in which the bark had to be heated in the absence of air. However, an international team led by researchers at the University of Tübingen and including faculty from New York University's Department of Anthropology and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering found that there is a very simple way to make this useful glue.

"Our paper challenges common beliefs that the presence of birchtar in Neanderthal archaeological assemblages means they had sophisticated cognitive abilities," said co-author Radu Iovita, a paleoanthropologist and Paleolithic archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at NYU and a member of the faculty of the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Tübingen.

https://phys.org/news/2019-08-neanderthal-tool-making-simpler-previously-thought.html
 

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80,000 year old Neanderthal footprints found in Normandy

Scientists have found hundreds of perfectly preserved footprints, suggesting a group of 10-13 individuals, mostly children and adolescents, were on the shoreline 80,000 years ago.

The 257 footprints discovered at Le Rozel in western France give a snapshot of how Neanderthals lived and suggest they may have been taller than previously thought.

“It was incredible to observe these tracks, which represent moments in the lives of individuals, sometimes very young, who lived 80,000 years ago,” said Duveau, of the French National Museum of Natural History.

The site was discovered by Yves Roupin, an amateur archaeologist, in the 1960s, but it was not until 2012, when it was threatened by wind and tidal erosion, that government-funded excavations started.

Mechanical diggers were used to extract sand tens of metres down to reach lower layers where the footprints were delicately uncovered with brushes.

The footprints were found among what the team called “abundant archaeological material” revealing evidence of animal butchery and tool-making. They date back to a time when only Neanderthals lived in western Europe.

Neanderthals’ feet were broader than those of modern humans. From the size of the footprints at Le Rozel, the researchers estimated the size of the individuals who made them and then inferred their age.

Some of the prints appear to have been made by a taller individual. Remains of skeletons previously suggested Neanderthals were around 150–160cm tall, but this individual may have measured 175cm (5ft 9in).
 

EnolaGaia

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Here's a novel take on why the Neanderthals died out ...
Did a common childhood illness take down the Neanderthals?

It is one of the great unsolved mysteries of anthropology. What killed off the Neanderthals, and why did Homo sapiens thrive even as Neanderthals withered to extinction? Was it some sort of plague specific only to Neanderthals? Was there some sort of cataclysmic event in their homelands of Eurasia that lead to their disappearance?

A new study from a team of physical anthropologists and head & neck anatomists suggests a less dramatic but equally deadly cause.

Published online by the journal, The Anatomical Record, the study, "Reconstructing the Neanderthal Eustachian Tube: New Insights on Disease Susceptibility, Fitness Cost, and Extinction"1 suggests that the real culprit in the demise of the Neanderthals was not some exotic pathogen.

Instead, the authors believe the path to extinction may well have been the most common and innocuous of childhood illnesses -- and the bane of every parent of young children -- chronic ear infections.

"It may sound far-fetched, but when we, for the first time, reconstructed the Eustachian tubes of Neanderthals, we discovered that they are remarkably similar to those of human infants," said coinvestigator and Downstate Health Sciences University Associate Professor Samuel Márquez, PhD, "Middle ear infections are nearly ubiquitous among infants because the flat angle of an infant's Eustachian tubes is prone to retain the otitis media bacteria that cause these infections -- the same flat angle we found in Neanderthals."

In this age of antibiotics, these infections are easy to treat and relatively benign for human babies. Additionally, around age 5, the Eustachian tubes in human children lengthen and the angle becomes more acute, allowing the ear to drain, all but eliminating these recurring infections beyond early childhood.

But unlike modern humans, the structure of the Eustachian tubes in Neanderthals do not change with age -- which means these ear infections and their complications, including respiratory infections, hearing loss, pneumonia, and worse, would not only become chronic, but a lifelong threat to overall health and survival. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190919080755.htm
 

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Here's a novel take on why the Neanderthals died out ...

FULL STORY: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190919080755.htm
Having been someone who has suffered from ear infections I can say they are unbelievably painful and I've picked up some horrible injuries which don't touch the pain an ear infection can produce.

Normally though they pass with or without AB's in under a week and I can't imagine this would have caused a species to die out. Even with secondary complications and I'm sure they would have come up with their own remedies.
 

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Oh well, time frame is near enough :D

Somerset human remains 'as old as Cheddar Man'

Two boxes of human remains rediscovered after 55 years have been found to be as old as the Cheddar Man - Britain's oldest complete skeleton.

The bones were discovered in a cave in Cannington Park Quarry near Bridgwater, Somerset, in the 1960s.

Soon after they "disappeared", and were recently found at Somerset Heritage Centre near Taunton, Cotswold Archaeology said.

Radiocarbon dating has shown them to be more than 9,000 years old.
(c) BBC '19
 

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Neanderthal 'glue' points to complex thinking

By: Paul Rincon, Science editor, BBC News website
Date: 21 October 2019

Traces of ancient "glue" on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.

The glue was made from birch tar in a process that required forward planning and involved several different steps.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50131120
 

James_H

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It seems like we collectively start from the assumption that neanderthals were not capable of complex thought and then have to go through the steps of disproving it. This is just as biased a position as assuming that they were capable of such thought, and hearkens back to a kind of teleological view of evolution that homo sapiens won out because it was the smartest and fittest of the homos. There are many other potential factors in their extinction. We already know that sapiens are not the direct descendents of neanderthals, but rather a sister species. Given that we occupied the same ecological niche, why suppose that they didn't have similar adaptations to us?
 

EnolaGaia

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Traces of ancient "glue" on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.
This BBC article is a bit late to the party and unaware of prior responses / developments. See Ramonmercado's post of 20 August (above).
 

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It seems like we collectively start from the assumption that neanderthals were not capable of complex thought and then have to go through the steps of disproving it. This is just as biased a position as assuming that they were capable of such thought, and hearkens back to a kind of teleological view of evolution that homo sapiens won out because it was the smartest and fittest of the homos. There are many other potential factors in their extinction. We already know that sapiens are not the direct descendents of neanderthals, but rather a sister species. Given that we occupied the same ecological niche, why suppose that they didn't have similar adaptations to us?
Frankly we've been treating them as a bunch of Neanderthals.
 
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More jewelry evidence.

An ancient eagle’s toe bone featuring stone tool incisions adds to evidence that Neandertals made pendants or other ornaments out of birds’ talons, researchers conclude in the Nov. 1 Science Advances.

Excavations in Foradada Cave, near northeastern Spain’s Mediterranean coast, have produced a roughly 39,000-year-old imperial eagle toe fossil. Stone tool marks on the bone were likely made when someone removed a talon from the bird’s foot, say archaeologist Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo of Madrid’s Institute of Human Evolution in Africa and colleagues. Neandertals have been linked to the style of stone artifacts found in the cave, the scientists add.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/ancient-toe-bone-hints-neandertals-used-eagle-talons-jewelry
 

EnolaGaia

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There's now a controversy concerning the attribution of cave art in Spain to Neanderthals.
Dating questions challenge whether Neandertals drew Spanish cave art

The dating method may have overestimated ages of the rock drawings by thousands of years

Ancient European cave paintings recently attributed to Neandertals have ignited an ongoing controversy over the actual age of those designs and, as a result, who made them.

The latest volley in this debate, published October 21 in the Journal of Human Evolution, contends that rock art in three Spanish caves that had been dated to at least roughly 65,000 years ago may actually be tens of thousands of years younger. If so, then Stone Age humans could have created the painted symbols and hand outlines (SN: 2/22/18). Neandertals died out by around 40,000 years ago (SN: 6/26/19).

An international group of 44 researchers, led by archaeologist Randall White of New York University, concludes that the controversial age estimates, derived from uranium-thorium dating, must be independently confirmed by other dating techniques. Those approaches include radiocarbon dating and thermoluminescence dating, which estimates the time since sediment was last exposed to sunlight.

Until that occurs, “there is still no convincing archaeological evidence that Neandertals created [southwestern European] cave art,” the scientists contend. “This is probably the first time 44 cave art researchers have agreed on anything,” White says. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencenews.org/article...nge-whether-neandertals-drew-spanish-cave-art
 

EnolaGaia

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This newly published study suggests the key factors in delaying and then causing Neanderthal extinction related to disease, differential immune system capabilities, and eventual interbreeding which provided an immunologically mixed population against which the Neanderthals couldn't compete.
Neanderthal extinction linked to human diseases

Growing up in Israel, Gili Greenbaum would give tours of local caves once inhabited by Neanderthals and wonder along with others why our distant cousins abruptly disappeared about 40,000 years ago. Now a scientist at Stanford, Greenbaum thinks he has an answer.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, Greenbaum and his colleagues propose that complex disease transmission patterns can explain not only how modern humans were able to wipe out Neanderthals in Europe and Asia in just a few thousand years but also, perhaps more puzzling, why the end didn't come sooner.

"Our research suggests that diseases may have played a more important role in the extinction of the Neanderthals than previously thought. They may even be the main reason why modern humans are now the only human group left on the planet," said Greenbaum, who is the first author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in Stanford's Department of Biology. ...

Employing mathematical models of disease transmission and gene flow, Greenbaum and an international team of collaborators demonstrated how the unique diseases harbored by Neanderthals and modern humans could have created an invisible disease barrier that discouraged forays into enemy territory. Within this narrow contact zone, which was centered in the Levant where first contact took place, Neanderthals and modern humans coexisted in an uneasy equilibrium that lasted tens of millennia.

Ironically, what may have broken the stalemate and ultimately allowed our ancestors to supplant Neanderthals was the coming together of our two species through interbreeding. The hybrid humans born of these unions may have carried immune-related genes from both species, which would have slowly spread through modern human and Neanderthal populations.

As these protective genes spread, the disease burden or consequences of infection within the two groups gradually lifted. Eventually, a tipping point was reached when modern humans acquired enough immunity that they could venture beyond the Levant and deeper into Neanderthal territory with few health consequence ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191107160610.htm
 
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Your parents were first cousins was also an insult back in those days.

Small populations, inbreeding, and random demographic fluctuations could have been enough to cause Neanderthal extinction, according to a study published November 27, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Krist Vaesen from Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, and colleagues.

Paleoanthropologists agree that Neanderthals disappeared around 40,000 years ago—about the same time that anatomically modern humans began migrating into the Near East and Europe. However, the role modern humans played in Neanderthal extinction is disputed. In this study, the authors used population modelling to explore whether Neanderthal populations could have vanished without external factors such as competition from modern humans.

Using data from extant hunter-gatherer populations as parameters, the authors developed population models for simulated Neanderthal populations of various initial sizes (50, 100, 500, 1,000, or 5,000 individuals). They then simulated for their model populations the effects of inbreeding, Allee effects (where reduced population size negatively impacts individuals' fitness), and annual random demographic fluctuations in births, deaths, and the sex ratio, to see if these factors could bring about an extinction event over a 10,000-year period.

https://phys.org/news/2019-11-inbreeding-populationdemographic-shifts-neanderthal-extinction.html
 
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The Life Aquatic.

New data suggests that our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals were diving under the ocean for clams.

It adds to mounting evidence that the old picture of these ancient people as brutish and unimaginative is wrong.Until now, there had been little clear evidence that Neanderthals were swimmers. But a team of researchers who analysed shells from a cave in Italy said that some must have been gathered from the seafloor by Neanderthals. The findings have been published in the journal Plos One.

The Neanderthals living at Grotta dei Moscerini in the Latium region around 90,000 years ago were shaping the clam shells into sharp tools. Paolo Villa, from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and colleagues, analysed 171 such tools, which all came from a local species of mollusc called the smooth clam (Callista chione). The tools were excavated by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51128639
 

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The Life Aquatic.

New data suggests that our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals were diving under the ocean for clams.

It adds to mounting evidence that the old picture of these ancient people as brutish and unimaginative is wrong.Until now, there had been little clear evidence that Neanderthals were swimmers. But a team of researchers who analysed shells from a cave in Italy said that some must have been gathered from the seafloor by Neanderthals. The findings have been published in the journal Plos One.

The Neanderthals living at Grotta dei Moscerini in the Latium region around 90,000 years ago were shaping the clam shells into sharp tools. Paolo Villa, from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and colleagues, analysed 171 such tools, which all came from a local species of mollusc called the smooth clam (Callista chione). The tools were excavated by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51128639
I misread that as "Neanderthals were living under the ocean"
 
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I wonder if they sang songs as they trekked along?

Neandertals were epic wanderers.

These ancient hominids took a 3,000- to 4,000-kilometer hike from Eastern Europe to the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia around 60,000 years ago, a new study concludes. The evidence is in their handiwork, scientists say, though it’s unclear how long the journey took or if it involved several geographically dispersed Neandertal groups passing technical knowledge along the route.

Neandertals at sites in what’s now Crimea and the northern Caucasus, just north of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe, and others who occupied Chagyrskaya Cave in southern Siberia crafted comparable stone tools between around 59,000 and 49,000 years ago, researchers report January 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Neandertals were intrepid explorers in their own right,” says Richard Roberts, a geochronologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/siberia-cave-contains-clues-about-two-epic-neandertal-treks
 

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I wonder if they sang songs as they trekked along?

Neandertals were epic wanderers.

These ancient hominids took a 3,000- to 4,000-kilometer hike from Eastern Europe to the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia around 60,000 years ago, a new study concludes. The evidence is in their handiwork, scientists say, though it’s unclear how long the journey took or if it involved several geographically dispersed Neandertal groups passing technical knowledge along the route.

Neandertals at sites in what’s now Crimea and the northern Caucasus, just north of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe, and others who occupied Chagyrskaya Cave in southern Siberia crafted comparable stone tools between around 59,000 and 49,000 years ago, researchers report January 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Neandertals were intrepid explorers in their own right,” says Richard Roberts, a geochronologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/siberia-cave-contains-clues-about-two-epic-neandertal-treks
Partial to a bit of rock music when they went clubbing no doubt...
 

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Neanderthal genes found for first time in African populations

Findings suggest human and Neanderthal lineages more closely intertwined that once thought

Source: theguardian.com
Date: 30 January, 2020

African populations have been revealed to share Neanderthal ancestry for the first time, in findings that add a new twist to the tale of ancient humans and our closest known relatives.

Previously it was believed that only non-African populations carried Neanderthal genes due to interbreeding that took place after a major human migration out of Africa and across the globe about 60,000 years ago.

The latest findings suggest human and Neanderthal lineages are more closely intertwined than once thought and point to far earlier interbreeding events, about 200,000 years ago.

“Our results show this history was much more interesting and there were many waves of dispersal out of Africa, some of which led to admixture between modern humans and Neanderthals that we see in the genomes of all living individuals today,” said Joshua Akey, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University and senior author of the research.

The study suggests living Europeans and Asians carry about 1% Neanderthal DNA, compared with on average 0.3% for those of African ancestry.

Akey and colleagues believe that this Neanderthal DNA arrived in Africa with ancient Europeans whose ancestors – over many generations – had left Africa, met and mated with Neanderthals and then returned to Africa and mixed with local populations.

“An important aspect of our study is that it highlights humans, and hominins, were moving in and out of Africa for hundreds of thousands of years and occasionally admixing,” said Akey. “These back-to-Africa migrations, largely from ancestors of contemporary Europeans, carried Neanderthal sequences with them, and through admixture, contributed to the Neanderthal ancestry we detect in African individuals today.”

The increasingly fine-grained details of our ancestors’ migration patterns and intimate encounters with other types of human are coming into focus thanks to the advent of sophisticated computational genetics techniques.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.th...s-found-for-first-time-in-african-populations
 

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Lost world revealed by human, Neanderthal relics washed up on North Sea beaches

Source: sciencemag.org
Date: 30 January, 2020

MONSTER, THE NETHERLANDS—On a clear, windy autumn afternoon last October, Willy van Wingerden spent a few free hours before work walking by the sea not far from the Dutch town of Monster. Here, in 2013, the cheerful nurse found her first woolly mammoth tooth. She has since plucked more than 500 ancient artifacts from the broad, windswept beach known as the Zandmotor, or “sand engine." She has found Neanderthal tools made of river cobbles, bone fishhooks, and human remains thousands of years old. Once, she plucked a tar-covered Neanderthal tool from the water’s edge, earning a co-author credit in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS) a few months ago.

“Sun, wind, rain, snow—I’m here 5 or 6 days a week,” she says. “I find something every day, almost.”

Van Wingerden’s favorite beachcombing spot is no ordinary stretch of sand. Nearly half a kilometer wide, the beach is made of material dredged from the sea bottom 13 kilometers offshore and dumped on the existing beach in 2012. It’s a €70 million experimental coastal protection measure, its sands designed to spread over time to shield the Dutch coast from sea-level rise. And the endeavor has made 21 million cubic meters of Stone Age soil accessible to archaeologists.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/01/relics-washed-beaches-reveal-lost-world-beneath-north-sea.
 

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Neanderthals’ relatives climbed an erupting volcano 350,000 years ago

Source: arstechnica.com
Date: 5 February, 2020

Local residents call the tracks Ciampate del Diavolo, or the Devil's Path.

Roccamonfina volcano, about 60km northwest of Vesuvius, erupted violently around 350,000 years ago. Pyroclastic flows—deadly torrents of hot gas and volcanic ash—raced down the sides of the mountain. But within a few days, a small group of hominins trekked across the layer of ash and pumice that covered the steep mountainside. Recent analysis and some newly identified prints suggest that the intrepid (or reckless) hominins may have been Homo heidelbergensis who lived and hunted near the volcano.

Another layer of ash later covered the slope, sealing away at least 81 tracks until the early 1800s, when erosion revealed them to the local humans. The tracks record where at least five climbers, all with different foot sizes, walked down the steep, ash-covered hillside. One trail zigzags back and forth downhill, and you can easily picture climbers carefully working their way diagonally across the slope. Along another, more curving path, there are still handprints where the climbers reached out to steady themselves, and a slide mark reveals where one climber slipped.

The ash must have been cool enough to walk on but still soft enough to preserve tracks—very detailed ones, in a few cases. According to ichnologist Adolfo Panarello (of University of Cassino and Southern Latium) and his colleagues, that must have happened within a few days of the pyroclastic flow; Roccamonfina may even still have been erupting. In the 1800s, people living around the now-extinct volcano were sure that only the devil could have left those tracks.

These aren’t the devil’s tracks, but whose are they?

https://arstechnica-com.cdn.ampproj...3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s
 

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Scientists discover Neanderthal skeleton in an Iraqi cave
The fossils provide fresh evidence the species buried their death mortuary rituals

A Neanderthal skeleton unearthed in an Iraqi cave, already famous for fossils of these cousins of our species, is providing fresh evidence that they buried their dead.

Scientists said they had discovered the well-preserved upper body skeleton of an adult Neanderthal, who lived about 70,000 years ago, in Shanidar Cave in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Tuesday. The individual – dubbed Shanidar Z – was perhaps in his or her 40s or 50s with their sex undetermined.

The cave was a pivotal site for mid-20th century archaeology. Remains of 10 Neanderthals – seven adults and three infants – were dug up there 60 years ago, offering insight into their physical characteristics, behaviour and diet. Clusters of flower pollen were found in soil samples associated with one of the skeletons, a discovery that prompted scientists involved in that research to propose that Neanderthals buried their dead and conducted funerary rites with flowers.
https://www.theguardian.com/science...iscover-neanderthal-skeleton-in-an-iraqi-cave
 
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