Based mostly on analysis in France’s Mandrin cave, in February 2022 we printed a research within the journal Science Advances that pushed again the earliest proof of the arrival of the primary Homo sapiens in Europe to 54,000 years in the past – 11 millennia sooner than had been beforehand established.
Within the research, we described 9 fossil tooth excavated from all of the archeological layers within the cave. Eight had been decided to be from Neanderthals, however one from one of many center layers belonged to a paleolithic Homo sapiens. Based mostly on this and different knowledge, we decided that these early Homo sapiens of Europe had been later changed by Neanderthal populations.
The one Homo sapiens tooth was found in a exceptional and wealthy archeological layer that additionally included roughly 1,500 tiny stone blades or bladelets – some had been lower than 1 centimeter in size. They had been all a part of the “Neronian” custom, named in 2004 by one among us, Ludovic Slimak, after the Néron collapse France’s Ardèche area. Neronian stone instruments are distinctive and there have been no related factors discovered within the layers left behind by the Neanderthals who inhabited the rock shelter earlier than and after. In addition they bear placing parallels with these made by different Homo sapiens alongside the east Mediterranean coast, as exemplified on the website of Ksar Akil northeast of Beirut.
This month within the journal Science Advances, we printed a research saying that the people who arrived in Europe some 54,000 years in the past had mastered using bows and arrows. This discovery pushes again the origin in Eurasia of those exceptional applied sciences by roughly 40,000 years.
The emergence in prehistory of mechanically propelled weapons – spears or arrows despatched on their means by throwing sticks (atlatl) or bows – is usually perceived as one of many hallmarks of the advance of recent human populations into the European continent. Nevertheless, the origin of archery has all the time been archeologically troublesome to hint as a result of the supplies used are inclined to disappear from the fossil file.
Armatures – onerous factors product of stone, horn or bone – represent the primary proof of weapon applied sciences within the European Paleolithic. Supplies related to archery – wooden, fibres, leather-based, resins, and sinew – are perishable, nevertheless, and so are not often preserved. This makes archaeological recognition of those applied sciences troublesome.
Partially preserved archery gear was present in Eurasia solely in more moderen occasions, between 10 and 12 millennia in the past, and in frozen floor or peat bogs, as on the Stellmoor website in Germany. Based mostly on the evaluation of armatures, archery is now effectively documented in Africa roughly 70,000 years in the past. Whereas some flint or deer-antler armatures recommend the existence of archery from the early phases of the Higher Paleolithic in Europe greater than 35,000 years in the past, their form and the way they had been hafted – connected to a shaft or deal with – don’t enable affirmation that they had been propelled by a bow.
More moderen armatures from the European Higher Paleolithic bear similarities to one another, not permitting us to obviously decide whether or not they had been propelled by a bow or an atlatl. This makes the potential existence of archery in the course of the European Higher Paleolithic archeologically believable, however troublesome to ascertain.
The stone factors discovered within the Mandrin cave are each extraordinarily mild (30% weigh hardly various grams) and small (nearly 40% of those tiny factors current a most width of 10mm).
To find out how they may have been propelled, step one was to make experimental replicas. We then hafted the newly made factors into shafts and examined how they behaved when shot with bows and spear-throwers, or by merely thrusting them. This allowed us to check their ballistic traits, limits and effectivity.
After our experimental replicas had been shot, we examined the fractures that resulted and in contrast them with these discovered on the archeological materials. The fractures and scars present that they had been distally hafted – connected to the break up finish of a shaft. Their small dimension and particularly slim width enable us to conclude how they had been fired: solely high-speed propulsion by a bow was potential, our evaluation decided.
The info from the Mandrin cave and the checks that we carried out enrich our information of those applied sciences in Europe and now enable us to push again the age of archery in Europe by greater than 40,000 years.
Our research additionally sheds mild on the weaponry of those Neanderthal populations, who had been contemporaries of the Neronian trendy people. Neanderthals didn’t develop mechanically propelled weapons and continued to make use of their conventional weapons based mostly on using huge stone-tipped spears that had been thrust or thrown by hand, and thus requiring shut contact with the sport they hunted. The traditions and applied sciences mastered by these two populations had been thus distinct, illustrating a exceptional goal technological benefit for contemporary populations throughout their enlargement into Europe.
Not solely do these discoveries profoundly reshape our information of Neanderthals and trendy people in Western Europe, however in addition they elevate many questions on the construction and group of those totally different populations on the continent. Technical decisions aren’t solely the results of the cognitive capacities of differing hominin populations, however may have relied on the load of traditions inside these Neanderthal and trendy human populations.
To deepen one’s understanding the complicated query of the connection between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals in the course of the first migration to the European continent, the reader can flip to Ludovic Slimak’s guide “Néandertal nu” (Odile Jacob 2022), quickly out there from Penguin books as “The Bare Neanderthal”.