Coexistence of Modern humans and Neanderthals

A discovery of a child’s tooth and stone tools in a cave in southern France suggests Homo sapiens was in western Europe about 54,000 years ago.That is several thousands of years earlier than previously thought, indicating that the two species could have coexisted for long periods. The research has been published in the journal Science Advances.

The finds were discovered in a cave, known as Grotte Mandrin in the Rhone Valley, by a team led by Prof Ludovic Slimak of the University of Toulouse.

In the journal Science Advances, the research paper(study based on Grotte Mandrin excavations ) described the discovery of evidence that modern humans lived 54,000 years ago at Mandrin. That’s some 10 millennia earlier than our species was previously thought to be in Europe and over a thousand miles west (1,700 kilometers) from the next-oldest known site, in Bulgaria. And fascinatingly, Neanderthals appear to have used the cave both before and after the modern human occupation.

A display of a series of skeltons showing the evolution of humans at the Peabody Museum, New Haven, Connecticut, circa 1935. (Photo by Herbert/Getty Images)

Another key finding was the association of the stone tools found in the same layer as the child’s tooth with modern humans. Tools made in the same way had been found in a few other sites – in the Rhone valley and also in Lebanon, but up until now scientists were not certain which species of humans made them.

The idea of a prolonged interaction with Neanderthals fits in with the discovery made in 2010 that modern humans have a small amount of Neanderthal DNA, indicating that the two species interbred, according to Prof Stringer.

The evidence suggests that this early group of humans lived at the site for a relatively brief period, of perhaps about 2,000 years after which the site was unoccupied. The Neanderthals then return, occupying the site for several more thousand years, until modern humans come back about 44,000 years ago.

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