About 45,000 years ago, Europe was going through great changes. The Neanderthals, the human species that until then had dominated the continent, began to disappear while a happy new species, the wise man, spread throughout Europe.
In that transition between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, and for several thousand years, the two human species coexisted and even crossed paths. -We still have 2% of Neanderthal DNA in our genome.
Besides, Neanderthals and Sapiens developed different cultures that, in some cases, like that of the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ), a type of lithic industry, from northwestern and central Europe (from Germany to Great Britain), scientists don’t know who to credit.
Now, the analysis of the remains of Ilsenhöhle cave in Ranis (Germany), a site associated with the LRJ culture, shows that this area was occasionally occupied by modern humans since 47,500 years ago, before the end of the Neanderthals.
she The discovery reinforces the idea of a mosaic of populations and cultures different people who were in Europe during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic.
The details were released this Wednesday in several articles published in Nature and Nature Ecology & Evolution; they are all led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
A mistake of almost a hundred years
The Ranis cave was excavated in 1930, but no human remains were found. Almost a hundred years later, a new excavation carried out between 2016 and 2022 reached a depth of eight meters, and, after removing a 1.7-meter stone, the team discovered new remains. At this time, the man is very well preserved.
In addition, they re-examined the bone fragments found in the 1930s, a painstaking work in which they discovered many human bones that throughout this period were mistakenly classified as animal bones.
Total, identified thirteen human skeletons whose DNA reveals that they belong to the same individual as Homo sapiens or to many maternal relatives of that 47,500 years ago they were part of the first modern humans who live in Europe.
Similarly, two other groups of scientists studied the climatic conditions and environment encountered by those pioneer groups of Homo sapiens in Ranis, and examined their ability to adapt. The conclusions are detailed in two articles on Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Stable isotope analysis of animal teeth and bones is helpful discover that between 45,000 and 43,000 years ago the Ranis was a very cold place with steppe landscapes similar to those of modern-day Siberia or northern Scandinavia and whose climatic conditions have cooled over the years.
“It shows that even these early groups of Homo sapiens that dispersed throughout Eurasia already had a certain capacity to adapt in extreme climatic conditions,” explains Sarah Pederzani, from the University of La Laguna (Tenerife) and Max Planck, and director of the paleoclimatic study of the cave.
The search is “fascinating and amazing” because until now it was thought that the resistance to climatic conditions did not occur until several thousand years ago, he pointed out.
The study explains that those early sapiens moved in small groups and in short, rapid raids where they hunted large mammals, such as horses, rhinos and reindeer.
Together, these studies, which include archaeological excavations, morphological and proteomic taxonomic identification, analysis of mitochondrial DNA, radiocarbon dating of archaeological material and human remains, zooarchaeology and isotopic analysismarking an important milestone in the understanding of the first forays of Homo sapiens into Europe north of the Alps during the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic.
“The results from Ilsenhöhle in Ranis radically change our ideas about the chronology and history of European settlement north of the Alps. especially exciting that we now have the oldest H. sapiens herein Thuringia, Germany”, concluded Tim Jünger, the Thuringian State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology.