Research, Technology

Did modern humans and Neanderthals mix with each other?

Neanderthals and modern humans in somemoment of time lived next to each other. Moreover, they interbred and gave birth to children, which has long been no secret. As we discussed earlier, each of us has traces of extinct relatives in our DNA. However, until the last moment, it was not known when and for how long this happened. In addition, it remains a mystery whether our ancestors had a common culture with the Neanderthals? It seems that the answers to these questions have been obtained through a reassessment of the radiocarbon dating of archaeological finds found in France and northern Spain.

The first modern humans to inhabit Europe mixed with the Neanderthals

How radiocarbon dating has improved

The most common dating methodis radiocarbon dating. It allows you to determine the age of the remains or organic materials by measuring the content of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in the material. This method has been used for decades. Of course, it is gradually being improved, resulting in an increase in the accuracy of dating.

The most significant jump in terms ofThe accuracy of radiocarbon dating occurred in 2020, when carbon scientists discovered that a brief change in the Earth's magnetic field about 42,000 years ago increased the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere.

Products that belong to the Châtelperon culture

This change in the magnetic field is calledLachamp event. Since in this period all organic matter absorbed a larger amount of the isotope, many studies that were carried out earlier turned out to be inaccurate.

How are the culture of Neanderthals and modern people distinguished?

The Lachamp event coincides with a critical epoch inthe history of mankind. At this point in time in Europe, the Châtelperon culture began to be gradually replaced by the Aurignacian culture. What does it mean? Roughly made knives, scrapers and other household items began to replace smaller items, but at the same time more accurately and accurately made. For example, knives had neat, high-quality processed, but not so massive blades.

A figurine that belongs to the Aurignacian culture

Presumably the Chatelperon culturebelonged to the Neanderthals, and the proto-Aurignacian belonged to modern people. It is believed that during this period of time, Neanderthals began to disappear from their usual habitats, and modern people began to settle on the continent. Where are such conclusions from? Objects of the Chatelperon culture were found next to the remains of Neanderthals. Products of the Aurignacian culture were often found in the burials of modern people.

When modern humans lived with Neanderthals

To clarify the age of products that areto the Châtelperon and Aurignacian cultures, the team of scientists decided to re-radiocarbon analyze, corrected for the Lachamp event. All the items that the scientists examined were found in France and northern Spain. In addition, the team dated 10 Neanderthal skeletons.

Despite the “calibration” known as IntCal20,which takes into account the increased content of carbon-14, the dates of products and skeletons have not changed dramatically. However, the oldest dates have shifted slightly forward, that is, the items turned out to be younger than previously thought. And later dates, on the contrary, have shifted back. As a result, the date range narrowed a bit.

Modern humans lived side by side with Neanderthals for several thousand years.

According to the results of the study, Aurignacianobjects were created by modern man 42200 - 42600 years ago. The objects of Châtelperron disappeared between 40,800 and 39,800 years ago. This means that both cultures existed simultaneously for approximately 1,400 to 2,800 years, as the team reported in Scientific Reports. The dates suggest that the objects of modern humans spread from south to north. It can be assumed that this was the path of modern people when they settled on the continent.

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Most likely, during this period of time, Neanderthalsand modern people communicated with each other, exchanged experience in the manufacture of objects, and even interbred. Indirect confirmation of this are the finds of Chatelperon artifacts, which belong to the late period. They clearly contain proto-Aurignacian elements, such as small and finely crafted knife blades.

Considering all of the above, thisresearch has only one serious drawback - it is not known exactly what kind of people made these or those objects. In addition, the study touched upon items found in a small area of ​​Europe. It is possible that in other parts of the continent, different human species and their cultures intermingled at a different time period. Perhaps there was even a benefit from such mixing, because in some ways Neanderthals even surpassed modern people.