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Neanderthals organised

Ancient rock shelter reveals Neanderthals kept organised and tidy homes


Archaeologists in Italy have found a collapsed rock shelter which has revealed that Neanderthals kept an organised and tidy home with separate spaces for preparing food, sleeping, making tools and socialising.  The study shows that Neanderthals were not that different from modern humans.

The new findings, published in the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, detail the result of excavations at Riparo Bombrini, a collapsed rock shelter in north-west Italy.  Archaeologists from the University of Colorado investigated three Neanderthal levels at the cave site and recorded how the areas were divided up for different activities.

The top level appears to have been used for butchering animals because it contained a high concentration of animal remains. The middle level contained the most traces of human occupation and seems to have been a long-term sleeping area. Artefacts were distributed to avoid clutter around the hearth at the back of the cave.  Finally, the bottom level was a place for shorter stays. Animal bones and stone tools were concentrated at the front rather than the rear of the shelter, suggesting that tool production took place there to take advantage of available sunlight.

“There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organised use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans,” said Dr Julien Riel-Salvatore, from the University of Colorado, who led the research. “'But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organised and purposeful when it came to domestic space.'”

The discovery adds to the growing evidence that Neanderthals were more advanced than previously thought and that their intelligence and culture was in fact on par with the modern humans.

“This is still more evidence that they were more sophisticated than many have given them credit for. If we are going to identify modern human behaviour on the basis of organised spatial patterns, then you have to extend it to Neanderthals as well,” said Dr Riel-Salvatore.

Scientists do not yet know why the Neanderthals became extinct approximately 30,000 years ago but the old theory that it was due to a lack of intelligence in comparison to modern humans appears to have been effectively ruled out.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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