AFRICANGLOBE – “Previous radiocarbon dates have often underestimated the age of samples because the organic matter was contaminated with modern [carbon] particles. We used ultrafiltration methods which purify the extracted collagen from bone, to avoid the risk of modern contamination.”
Above: Human Skull, left, Neanderthal skull, right
A new study published in the journal Nature that relies on a vastly improved carbon-dating technique has found that Neanderthals lived alongside humans for many centuries, and that they may have died out in the 2,000 years between 41,000 and 39,000 years ago in what is now modern-day Belgium, likely after the climate of Europe changed to become colder and drier. This means the two groups lived together for as much as 4,900 years in Europe, the Independent reported today.
That prolonged period of cohabitation with homo sapiens likely led both to exchange of culture – and the exchange of genes due to inter-breeding in Europe.
Scientists analyzed 196 samples of bone, charcoal and shell from 40 Neanderthal sites from across Europe using a new ultra-filtration purifying technique to remove traces of modern day carbons from fossils and other ancient objects.
“Previous radiocarbon dates have often underestimated the age of samples because the organic matter was contaminated with modern [carbon] particles [which can cause samples to be dated as much as 7,000 years younger than they actually are]. We used ultrafiltration methods which purify the extracted collagen from bone, to avoid the risk of modern contamination,” Oxford University Professor Tom Higham, the new study’s lead author, explained.
“We believe we now have the first robust timeline that sheds new light on some of the key questions around the possible interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans. The chronology also pinpoints the timing of the Neanderthals’ disappearance, and suggests they may have survived in dwindling populations in pockets of Europe before they became extinct.”
By: Shmarya Rosenberg