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Late survival of Neanderthals at the southernmost extreme of Europe

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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Figure 1: Plan of Gorham’s Cave including the section excavated.

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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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Correspondence to Clive Finlayson.

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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). (DOC 10175 kb)

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Finlayson, C., Giles Pacheco, F., Rodríguez-Vidal, J. et al. Late survival of Neanderthals at the southernmost extreme of Europe. Nature 443, 850–853 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature05195

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