Archaeologists Unearth Evidence of Last Neanderthals on British Island
A team of archaeologists rediscovered the lost home of the last Neanderthals from a site that has a rich deposit of geological and archaeological evidence.
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A team of NERC funded scientists working in the Channel island of Jersey have rediscovered a lost site of the last Neanderthals. The site is rich with geological deposits. The finding was made in the La Cotte de St Brelade cave.
A major portion of the site is rich in sediments that date back to the last Ice Age. The sediments carry valuable information of climate change and are rich with archaeological evidence dating back nearly 250,000 years. This is the only site that contains the late Neanderthal remains from North West Europe.
"In terms of the volume of sediment, archaeological richness and depth of time, there is nothing else like it known in the British Isles. Given that we thought these deposits had been removed entirely by previous researchers, finding that so much still remains is as exciting as discovering a new site," Dr Matt Pope of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, who led the research, said in a press statement.
With the help of a unique technique called Optically Stimulated Luminesce, they were able to exactly date the last time the sand grains were exposed to sunlight. They noticed that a part of the sediments dated between 100,000-47,000 years. This indicates that the Neanderthal teeth that were recovered in 1910 at the site was in fact younger than previously believed. And they most probably belonged to the last Neanderthals of the region.
"The discovery that these deposits still exist and can be related to previously excavated deposits opens up a range of exciting possibilities," says Dr Martin Bates, University of Trinity St Davids, who is leading current fieldwork at the site.
With this finding, all the massive collections of stone tools and animal bones including the Neanderthal remains fall under the renewed study. The excavations that will be conducted in future will allow the archaeologists to apply a wide range of approaches to the site.
The dates that the sediments throw up make the discovery truly exceptional. The researchers have got access to evidence that spans the last 120,000 years, which are still well preserved at the site. It was during this period that Homo Sapiens gradually replaced Neanderthals.
The team plans to investigate the site as well as material excavated from it over the past 110 years.
Pope concludes saying, "Working with our partners to bring these rediscovered sediments under new analysis will allow us to bring the lives of the last Neanderthal groups to live in North West Europe into clearer focus. We may be able to use this evidence to better understand when Neanderthal populations disappeared form the region and whether they ever shared the landscape with the species which ultimately replaced them, us."
The study is published in the Journal of Quaternary Science.