Neanderthal populations on the Iberian Peninsula were experiencing local extinction and replacement even before the arrival of Homo sapiens, according to a study published March 30, 2022 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Joseba Rios-Garaizar of the Archaeological Museum of Bilbao, Spain and her colleagues.
Neanderthals died out around 40,000 years ago, but many details about their extinction remain unclear. To elucidate the situation, it is useful to explore how Neanderthal populations changed over their last millennia. In this study, researchers examined the distribution of a tool complex known as the Châtelperronian, which is believed to be unique to certain Neanderthal populations in France and the Iberian Peninsula.
Researchers examined more than 5,000 Châtelperronian tool remains from a site called Aranbaltza II at Barrika in northern Iberia, dating back around 45,500 years. By comparing this site with other nearby Neanderthal tool sites, they document that the Châtelperronian system does not overlap in time with older Neanderthal technologies in this region, suggesting that Châtelperronian tools were not developed from earlier Iberian technology, but instead originated elsewhere before migrating into the region. . They also found that Châtelperronian tools appear earlier than the first tools of Homo sapiens in the Iberian Peninsula.
Based on this evidence, the authors suggest that older Iberian Neanderthal populations disappeared, taking their tool styles with them, and were replaced by different Neanderthal groups using Chatelperronian tools, probably migrating from France, and these populations were in turn replaced by Homo sapiens. The researchers propose that these local Neanderthal extinction and replacement patterns are an important area for future study, as they may have played an important role in the decline and eventual demise of Neanderthals.
The authors add: “Neanderthals of Châtelperronian technology occupied the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula around 43,000 years ago. This territory was unoccupied at the time, following the earlier disappearance of local Neanderthal groups, as well as their Mousterian technology. .”
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