Modern humans replaced Neanderthals in southern Spain 44,000 years ago

Related Articles

Related Articles

A study carried out in Bajondillo Cave (in the town of Torremolinos, in the province of Malaga) by an international team made up of researchers from Spain, Japan and the U.K. revealed that modern humans replaced Neanderthals 44,000 years ago.

This study, published today in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution and in which University of Cordoba and University of Granada scientists participated, demonstrates that replacing Neanderthals for modern humans in southern Iberia is an early, not late, occurrence, in the context of Western Europe. That is to say it happened 5,000 years before previously thought up until now.

Western Europe is a key area for dating when modern humans replaced Neanderthals. The first ones are associated with Mousterian industries (named after a Neanderthal archaeological site in Le Moustier, France), and the second ones with Aurignacians (named after another French archaeological site in Aurignac) that followed. To date, radiocarbon dating available in Western Europe dated the end of this replacement around 39,000 years ago, even though in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula Mousterian industries (and for that matter, Neanderthal ones) continued to exist and would until 32,000 years ago. In this area there is no evidence of the early Aurignacians that is documented in Europe.


The new dating from Bajondillo Cave (Torremolinos, Malaga) has narrowed down the replacement of Mousterian industries for Aurignacian ones to a range between 45,000 and 43,000 years ago, which raises questions about the late continued existence of Neandertals in southern Iberia.

New research will be necessary to determine if indeed these new dates show an earlier replacement of Neanderthals in the entire southern peninsula, or if they show more complex scenarios of a “mosaic” coexistence between both groups for millennia.

However it occurred, the dates revealed in the Nature Ecology and Evolution article, in which University of Cordoba Professor José Antonio Riquelme is a coauthor, prove that the establishment of modern humans in Bajondillo Cave are separate from phenomenons of extreme cold (known as Heinrich events), since they occurred before the closest one, Heinrich event 4 (39,500 years ago).

Francisco J. Jimenez-Espejo, a researcher at the Andalusian Earth Science Institute (the Spanish National Research Council and the University of Granada) and one of the coauthors of the article, points out that “Heinrich events represent the most intense and fluctuating climate conditions in Western Europe on a millenium scale, even though in this Mediterranean coastal region, they do not appear to be involved in the transition from Mousterian to Aurignacian.”

The location of Bajondillo indicates that coastal passages were favorite routes in the dispersal of the first modern humans. In this sense, the researchers maintain that finding such an early Aurignacian in a cave so close to the sea strengthens the idea that the Mediterranean coastline was a route modern humans took to get to Europe, reinforcing those dates that prove that more than 40,000 years agos Homo sapiens had spread rapidly throughout a considerable part of Eurasia.

Lastly, seeing as the relevance of coastal areas abounds, the authors of this study suggest that the evidence in Bajondillo Cave has revived the idea that the Strait of Gibraltar was a potential dispersal route for modern humans leaving Africa.


Header Image Credit : CC License – AquilaGib

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Some Dinosaurs Could Fly Before They Were Birds

New research using the most comprehensive study of feathered dinosaurs and early birds has revised the evolutionary relationships of dinosaurs at the origin of birds.

Searching the Ancient Depths of a Reptilian Genome Yields Insight into all Vertebrates

Scientists searching the most ancient corners of the genome of a reptile native to New Zealand found patterns that help explain how the genomes of all vertebrates took shape, according to a recently published study.

Researchers Unlock Secrets of the Past With New International Carbon Dating Standard

Radiocarbon dating is set to become more accurate than ever after an international team of scientists improved the technique for assessing the age of historical objects.

New Findings Dispel the View That Australia’s First Peoples Were ‘Only Hunter Gatherers’

Archaeologists at The Australian National University (ANU) have found the earliest evidence of Indigenous communities cultivating bananas in Australia.

Bones Recently Found on the Isle of Wight Belong to a New Species of Theropod Dinosaur

A new study by Palaeontologists at the University of Southampton suggests four bones recently found on the Isle of Wight belong to new species of theropod dinosaur, the group that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and modern-day birds.

Cremation in the Middle-East Dates as Far Back as 7,000 B.C.

The gender of the human remains found inside a cremation pyre pit in Beisamoun, Israel remains unknown. What is known is that the individual was a young adult injured by a flint projectile several months prior to their death in spring some 9,000 years ago.

Academics Develop New Method to Determine the Origin of Stardust in Meteorites

Meteorites are critical to understanding the beginning of our solar system and how it has evolved over time.

Primate Voice Boxes are Evolving at a Rapid Pace

Scientists have discovered that the larynx, or voice box, of primates is significantly larger relative to body size, has greater variation, and is under faster rates of evolution than in other mammals.

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.