Gibraltar caves provide fresh insight into how Neanderthals lived
|Gorham's Cave was inhabited by Neanderthals for 100,000 years, with radiocarbon dating suggesting they lived on the Rock possibly as recently as 24,000 years ago [Credit: PA]|
The dig, carried out at four sites on the Rock, unearthed stone tools and camp fires featuring the remains of seals, ibex and red deer, dating back more than 24,000 years.
By analysing the artefacts and the density in which they were found in each cave, a team of scientists was able to determine which site was used for what purpose.
Among the tools found were hammers, scrapers and shucks for opening shellfish, another staple of the Neanderthal diet. The population would have foraged locally along a coastal plain, eating a varied diet including wild boar, rabbits, dolphins, birds, tortoises, fish and pine nuts.
Gibraltar was inhabited by Neanderthals for 100,000 years, with radiocarbon dating suggesting they lived on the Rock possibly as recently as 24,000 years ago.
The peninsula was the final stronghold of the early descendants of man and is where one of the first discoveries of Neanderthal skeletal remains was made in the 19th century.
Gorham's Cave, the largest of those excavated by the scientists from Gibraltar Museum and Oxford University, was also once home to hyenas.
"Gorham's Cave has a denser, more continuous sequence of lithic artefacts, with greater organic content in its sediments, corroborating the notion that the cave was more heavily utilised," read the paper published in the PLoS One journal.
"The paucity of large vertebrate remains from Gorham's Cave has been interpreted to be a consequence of housekeeping, thus implying longer-term occupation.
"Gorham's Cave is the largest of the four caves, and its high ceiling and exposure to sunlight make it the most suitable for habitation.
It added: "The dichotomy in occupation intensity between Gorham's and the other caves, suggests the southern Iberian Neanderthals may have practised a mobility pattern in which hominids would temporarily occupy various sites during the course of foraging, but would regularly return to a particular hub locality, such as Gorham's."
Author: Sarah Griffiths | Source: The Telehraph [July 04, 2013]