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Thermoluminescence dates for the Neanderthal burial site at Kebara in Israel


The origins of modern man are a subject of controversy among palaeoanthropologists concerned with human evolution1–3. Particularly heavily debated is the dating of hominid remains uncovered in southwestern Asia, because middle palaeolithic sites have provided skeletal remains classified as representing Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis at Tabun, Amud, Kebara and Shanidar caves) and proto-Cro-Magnons (Homo sapiens sapiens at Skhul and Qafzeh caves). This situation differs considerably from that of Western Europe, where only Neanderthal remains are known from archaeological deposits of this period, or that of the African continent, where no Neanderthal remains have so far been found. Two opposing hypotheses have been offered to explain the relations between Neanderthals and the earliest modern Homo sapiens: first that modern Homo sapiens appeared very early in the Mediterranean Levant and coexisted with a population of Neanderthals who had arrived at a later date; and second that modern humans developed from the local Neanderthal population in southwestern Asia. Recent excavations at the Kebara cave yielded Neanderthal burial in a well-documented stratigraphic and cultural Mousterian sequence4,5. We now report that ther-moluminescence dates from 38 specimens of burnt flint recovered from 4 m of Kebara deposits range from about 60,000 to 48,000 years before present (BP), indicating that Neanderthals were present in the Levant in the latter part of the middle Palaeolithic.

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Valladas, H., Joron, J., Valladas, G. et al. Thermoluminescence dates for the Neanderthal burial site at Kebara in Israel. Nature 330, 159–160 (1987).

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