Neanderthals and Homo sapiens exchanged knowledge 46,000 years ago

Hyperaxion May 11, 2020

A study published on Nature shows relationships between the two groups of hominids, based on excavations at the Bacho Kiro cave in Bulgaria.

New excavations at the Bacho Kiro cave in central Bulgaria revealed details about the lives of the hominids that inhabited that region 46,000 years ago. The findings were shared in an article published on Nature on Monday (11).

Neanderthals and Homo sapiens exchanged knowledge 46,000 years ago
Comparison of Modern Human and Neanderthal skulls from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Scientists found fossils of Homo sapiens in the cave that date from the same period that Neanderthals lived in that corner of the world, and this, according to the researchers, indicates that the species interacted more than previously thought. “The Bacho Kiro Cave site provides evidence for the first dispersal of H. sapiens across the mid-latitudes of Eurasia. Pioneer groups brought new behaviours into Europe and interacted with local Neanderthals,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany, in a statement.

Blade-like tools and pendants made from animal teeth were also found at the archaeological site. The findings surprised the team because, until then, it was believed that the artifacts were the work of Neanderthals. However, the new study suggests that the objects were actually made by H. sapiens who lived in the area.

(Credit: Tsenka Tsanova, MPI-EVA Leipzig).
(Credit: Tsenka Tsanova, MPI-EVA Leipzig).

“Our findings link the expansion of what were then advanced technologies, such as blade tools and pendants made from teeth and bone, with the spread of Homo sapiens more than 45,000 years ago,” explained Shara Bailey, a professor at New York University, in the United States, and co-author of the article, in a statement to the press. “This confirms that Homo sapiens were mostly responsible for these ‘modern’ creations and that similarities between these and other sites in which Neanderthals made similar things are due to interaction between the populations.”

In fact, previous studies suggest that the last Neanderthals only disappeared from Western Europe about 40,000 years ago – that is, they and Homo sapiens lived at the same time in the same region for at least 5,000 years. For the team, the new study offers a new understanding of the nature of these species and how they interacted thousands of years ago.

Ornaments and tools found in the cave.
Ornaments and tools found in the cave. (Credit: Rosen Spasov and Geoff Smith / Max Planck Institute).

“If Neanderthals had created these ‘modern’ tools and jewelry, it would have indicated they had more advanced cognitive abilities than previously recognized,” said Bailey. “Nonetheless, there are some similarities in manufacturing techniques used by Homo sapiens at Bacho Kiro and Neanderthals elsewhere, which makes clear that there was cultural transmission going on between the two groups.”

Scientists during the excavations in Bulgaria.
Scientists during the excavations in Bulgaria. (Credit: Tsenka Tsanova, MPI-EVA Leipzig).

Related topics:

Fossil Neanderthals

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