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Reevaluating the timing of Neanderthal disappearance in Northwest Europe

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

Elucidating when Neanderthal populations disappeared from Eurasia is a key question in paleoanthropology, and Belgium is one of the key regions for studying the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Previous radiocarbon dating placed the Spy Neanderthals among the latest surviving Neanderthals in Northwest Europe with reported dates as young as 23,880 +/- 240 B.P. (OxA-8912). Questions were raised, however, regarding the reliability of these dates. Soil contamination and carbon-based conservation products are known to cause problems during the radiocarbon dating of bulk collagen samples. Employing a compound-specific approach that is today the most efficient in removing contamination and ancient genomic analysis, we demonstrate here that previous dates produced on Neanderthal specimens from Spy were inaccurately young by up to 10,000 y due to the presence of unremoved contamination. Our compound-specific radiocarbon dates on the Neanderthals from Spy and those from Engis and Fonds-de-Foret demonstrate that they disappeared from Northwest Europe at 44,200 to 40,600 cal B.P. (at 95.4% probability), much earlier than previously suggested. Our data contribute significantly to refining models for Neanderthal disappearance in Europe and, more broadly, show that chronometric models regarding the appearance or disappearance of animal or hominin groups should be based only on radiocarbon dates obtained using robust pretreatment methods.
Tijdschrift: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
ISSN: 0027-8424
Issue: 12
Volume: 118
Aantal pagina's: 1
Jaar van publicatie:2021