Friday, January 06, 2006

Revised, older dates for Croatian Neanderthal fossils

It is known that Neanderthals co-existed with anatomically modern humans for some time in Europe, but the length of time during which the two populations might have interacted has been poorly defined. Neanderthal fossils found in Vindija Cave, Croatia had earlier been identified as the youngest of European Neanderthal finds at 28000 years ago.

A new paper appearing in this week's PNAS revists the dating of these fossils, still using C-14.The results suggest the fossils are about 4000 years older than was thought, that is, at least 33000 years old. This, combined with some revisions of modern Homo sapiens tools, tends to put an upper limit on how long or extensive the contact between the two species was. In their discussion the authors emphasize that there are just not many fossils of either kind available between 40000 and 30000 years ago.

UPDATE: A very good writeup at John Hawks. Apparently the younger dates obtained before from these fossils were due to contamination problems. Careful, careful, careful.....

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