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Abstract

The late survival of archaic hominin populations and their long contemporaneity with modern humans is now clear for southeast Asia1. In Europe the extinction of the Neanderthals, firmly associated with Mousterian technology, has received much attention, and evidence of their survival after 35 kyr bp has recently been put in doubt2. Here we present data, based on a high-resolution record of human occupation from Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar, that establish the survival of a population of Neanderthals to 28 kyr bp. These Neanderthals survived in the southernmost point of Europe, within a particular physiographic context, and are the last currently recorded anywhere. Our results show that the Neanderthals survived in isolated refuges well after the arrival of modern humans in Europe.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all those who have participated in this project. The project Palaeomed was co-funded by the Government of Gibraltar and the European Union Interreg IIIB Programme Medocc. Palynological and geochemical investigations were funded by Fundación Séneca, Murcia, Spain, and Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, DGI, Spain, respectively. Geomorphological work was funded by Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, DGI, Spain. Author Contributions C.F., F.G.P., J.R.-V. and C.B.S. were responsible for project direction and management. C.F. coordinated the writing. Multidisciplinary work was divided as follows: archaeology and curation—F.G.P., J.M.G.L., A.S.P., J.B.P., F.G.G., K.B., C.A.V. and A.V.; geomorphology and sedimentology—J.R.-V., F.J.J.E., F.M.R. and T.S.; taphonomy—I.C. and Y.F.J.; palaeoecology—C.F., D.A.F. (general), G.F. (palaeolandscape), E.A. (anthracology), J.S.C., P.L., J.A.L.S., N.F. (palaeobotany), C.P.G.-O. (herpetological taxonomy), J.A.R.C. (mammalian taxonomy) and A.S.M. (avian taxonomy). All authors discussed and interpreted the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Affiliations

  1. The Gibraltar Museum, 18–20 Bomb House Lane, Gibraltar

    • Clive Finlayson
    • , Darren A. Fa
    • , Geraldine Finlayson
    •  & Claire A. Valarino
  2. Department of Social Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario M1C 1A4, Canada

    • Clive Finlayson
  3. Museo Arqueologico de El Puerto Santa María, 11500 El Puerto Santa María, Spain

    • Francisco Giles Pacheco
    •  & Antonio Santiago Pérez
  4. Departamento de Geodinámica y Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencias Experimentales, Universidad de Huelva, 21071 Huelva, Spain

    • Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal
  5. Museo Municipal, 11650 Villamartín, Spain

    • José María Gutierrez López
  6. Institut Catala de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolucio Social, Area de Prehistoria, Universidad Rovira i Virgili, 43003 Tarragona, Spain

    • Ethel Allue
    •  & Isabel Cáceres
  7. Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología, Universidad Autonoma, 28049 Madrid, Spain

    • Javier Baena Preysler
  8. Department of Plant Biology, Universidad de Murcia, 30100 Murcia, Spain

    • José S. Carrión
    •  & Noemí Fuentes
  9. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), 28006 Madrid, Spain

    • Yolanda Fernández Jalvo
    •  & Antonio Sánchez Marco
  10. The Herpetological Conservation Trust, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 4AP, UK

    • Christopher P. Gleed-Owen
  11. Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra, CSIC-UGR, 18002 Granada, Spain

    • Francisco J. Jimenez Espejo
    •  & Francisca Martinez Ruiz
  12. Department of Geography, Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK

    • Pilar López
  13. Laboratorio de Arqueobotánica, Instituto de Historia (CSIC), 28014 Madrid, Spain

    • José Antonio López Sáez
  14. Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueologia, Universidad de Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain

    • José Antonio Riquelme Cantal
  15. Area de Prehistoria, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Cádiz, 11003 Cádiz, Spain

    • Francisco Giles Guzman
    •  & Antonio Villalpando
  16. Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, UK

    • Kimberly Brown
  17. Department of Palaeontology, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK

    • Christopher B. Stringer
  18. Institute for Research on Earth Evolution, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan

    • Tatsuhiko Sakamoto

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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Clive Finlayson.

Supplementary information

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Notes

    This file contains Supplementary Notes under five headings: 1. Stratigraphic and archaeological information for Levels III and IV Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar (including 2 Supplementary Figures); 2. Geochemical and Mineralogical Analyses (including 2 Supplementary Tables and 2 Supplementary Figures.); 3. Taphonomy (1 Supplementary Table); 4. AMS Dating; and 5. Ecology (1 Supplementary Table).

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature05195

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