New analysis of a fossil tooth and stone tools from Shukbah Cave reveals Neanderthals used stone tool technologies thought to have been unique to modern humans
Long held in a private collection, the newly analyzed tooth of an approximately 9-year-old Neanderthal child marks the hominin’s southernmost known range. Analysis of the associated archaeological assemblage suggests Neanderthals used Nubian Levallois technology, previously thought to be restricted to Homo sapiens.
Credit; © Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London © Blinkhorn, et al., 2021
With a high concentration of cave sites harbouring evidence of past populations and their behaviour, the Levant is a major centre for human origins research. For over a century, archaeological excavations in the Levant have produced human fossils and stone tool assemblages that reveal landscapes inhabited by both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, making this region a potential mixing ground between populations. Distinguishing these populations by stone tool assemblages alone is difficult, but one technology, the distinct Nubian Levallois method, is argued to have been produced only by Homo sapiens.
In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History teamed up with international partners to re-examine the fossil and archaeological record of Shukbah Cave. Their findings extend the southernmost known range of Neanderthals and suggest that our now-extinct relatives made use of a technology previously argued to be a trademark of modern humans. This study marks the first time the lone human tooth from the site has been studied in detail, in combination with a major comparative study examining the stone tool assemblage.
Photos of Nubian Levallois cores associated with Neanderthal fossils
Credits :© UCL, Institute of Archaeology & courtesy of the Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania,
“Sites where hominin fossils are directly associated with stone tool assemblages remain a rarity – but the study of both fossils and tools is critical for understanding hominin occupations of Shukbah Cave and the larger region,” says lead author Dr Jimbob Blinkhorn, formerly of Royal Holloway, University of London and now with the Pan-African Evolution Research Group (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History).
Contacts and sources:
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Publication: Nubian Levallois technology associated with southernmost Neanderthals James Blinkhorn, Clément Zanolli, Tim Compton, Huw S. Groucutt, Eleanor M.L. Scerri, Lucile Crété, Chris Stringer, Michael D. Petraglia, Simon Blockley
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