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Neanderthals returned to a comfy home

Neanderthals returned to a comfy home after a hard day’s work

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New excavations of caves in Gibraltar have revealed that Neanderthals used a network of small caves during hunting expeditions after which they returned to a larger base which they probably considered as their home. In this way, they were not too dissimilar to humans today who like to return to a comfortable ‘base’ after a hard day’s work.

Scientists from Oxford University, together with a team from Gibraltar museum, combined their skills during an excavation of various caves in the region. They uncovered stone tools, including hammers, scrapers and shucks for opening shellfish, along with camp fires which contained meal left-overs from 24,000 years ago, including the remains of seals, ibex and red deer.

By studying the contents of the various caves the team of researchers was able to determine how each cave was used. For example, the lack of large vertebrate remains in a large cave called Gorham Cave suggests that our ancient ancestors were keeping the cave tidy and viewed this cave more like a home. 

The cave also displayed signs of heavy use, and its high ceiling and exposure to sunlight are believed to have made it the cave of choice for habitation. According to the paper published in the PLoS One journal. 'The dichotomy in occupation intensity between Gorham's and the other caves, suggests the southern Iberian Neanderthals may have practised a mobility pattern in which hominins would temporarily occupy various sites during the course of foraging, but would regularly return to a particular hub locality, such as Gorham's.'

Gibraltar was inhabited by Neanderthals for 100,000 years, with radiocarbon dating suggesting they lived on the Rock possibly as recently as 24,000 years ago. The study shows that we are still unravelling more about the habits and lifestyle of our ancient ancestor.

By April Holloway

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