Human bone fragment from new excavations at Ranis.
Never have such ancient traces of modern humans been identified in this region of Europe. This major discovery refines the scenario of the population of the continent by our species, which ended up replacing the local populations of Neanderthals, like all other archaic human lineages across the planet.
In Europe, this replacement phenomenon spread over several thousand years, between the Middle Paleolithic and the Upper Paleolithic, explains to AFP the paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the department of x27;human evolution from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig (Germany), lead author of one of the studies.
During a phase , Sapiensand Neanderthals coexisted, without knowing precisely where and how. Archaeological evidence has revealed the presence of different cultures in well-defined geographic areas during this period of transition.
Analysis of more than 1,000 animal bones from Ranis showed that the first Homo sapiens processed the carcasses of deer, but also of carnivores, including the wolf.
But identifying the authors of these cultures is a puzzle as human remains are rare.
Paleontologists particularly stumble upon the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ) culture, a type of cut stone tools. Found on several sites north of the Alps, on a strip stretching from England to Poland, it is dated to around 45,000 to 41,000 BCE.
From 2016 to 2022, a team from the Max Planck Institute set out to excavate one of these sites in Ranis, Germany, already partially excavated in the 1930s. A cave with perilous access , whose roof collapsed.
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It was necessary to go eight meters underground and board up the walls to protect the excavators, says Jean-Jacques Hublin, professor at the Collège de France.
By luckily, they came across LRJ bifacial tools and thousands of associated bone fragments. A first.
Scientists used a recent technique, called paleoproteomics, consisting of extracting proteins, to find out if x27;was human or animal bones.
They also recovered bones collected in the 1930s, kept in a museum near Leipzig.
A dozen human remains were thus subjected to radiocarbon dating and genetic analyses. Verdict: Homo sapiens was the maker of these tools made a little over 45,000 years ago.
Humans with the same characteristics as their congeners discovered in eastern Europe (Bulgaria and the Czech Republic). Also dated 45,000 years ago, they were until now the oldest representatives of our species on the continent.
It was during this period that the very first Homo sapiens, coming from Africa, approached the Eurasian continent, long occupied by Neanderthals on its western flank.
We have long had in head the model of a great wave of Sapiens which swept over Europe and quickly absorbed the Neanderthals towards the end of these transitional cultures around 40,000 years ago, deciphers Jean -Jacques Hublin.
According to the latest discoveries, it seems rather that Sapienspopulated the continent in successive waves, and older than imagined.
During their incursion into Northern Europe 45,000 years ago, our distant ancestors may well have coexisted with their Neanderthal cousins, the last survivors of which died out in the southwest of the continent 40,000 years ago.
Work published in Naturedepict pioneers venturing into a cold climate, the equivalent of Siberia or the north of present-day Scandinavia, described in a press release Sarah Pederzani, who led the research on the environment of Ranis .
They lived in small mobile groups, only ephemerally occupying the cave where they consumed hunted animals (reindeer, horses, etc.). .).
How did these people from Africa come up with the idea of going to such extreme temperatures? asks Professor Hublin.
They in any case possessed a technical capacity and a resilience to the cold climate which was thought to be had developed several thousand years later in Sapiens, adds Sarah Pederzani. This is probably not what the Neanderthals, who were supposed to be used to the cold, did not have.