Thursday, February 14, 2019

Neanderthal Walked in Gibraltar 29,000 Years Ago, Footprints of a Juvenile Found on Fossil Dune

Neanderthals once inhabited Gibraltar.

A multidisciplinary team of geologists and paleontologists from the Universities of Seville, Huelva, Lisbon, Naturtejo Global Geopark and Coimbra (Portugal), Toronto (Canada), Atacama (Chile) and the Geological Survey of Japan have found in a fossil dune of Gibraltar the first evidence of a trace of a Neanderthal adolescent about 29,000 years ago . It is the second place in the world where Neandertal traces are detected.

Credit University of Seville

The group of researchers found these remains after analyzing the paleolandscape of a dune located in the Levante del Peñón area. In addition to this human footprint, which dates back to 28,300 years according to absolute dates by OSL, have appeared other belonging to the fauna that populated the area, such as goats, lynxes, deer, leopards and even elephants . The experts discovered the footprints thanks to an old quarry of sand, now abandoned, which suffers frequent sediment crashes and exposes these footprints, some in vertical section and others as reliefs.

In the research work, whose results will be published in the prestigious journal Quaternary Science Reviews , the professor of the Department of Crystallography, Mineralogy and Agricultural Chemistry of the University of Seville and main author of the article, Fernando Muñiz, as well as other Portuguese colleagues submitted the samples obtained from laboratory studies and found in the cuts remains of vertebrate tracks .

 In one of the analyzes was when they recognized the human footprint. " For classical researchers dating from 28,000-29,000 years ago, the footprint of a Neanderthal is still the subject of controversy, since in theory its disappearance occurred 40,000 years ago.. However, the evidence on which we have worked in the cave records of Gibraltar shows a very late occupation of this area by Neanderthal humans. It was a refuge for food and climate resources for these last inhabitants ", clarify Dr. Muñiz and Professor Rodríguez Vidal.

" We have been working on the Cuevas de Gibraltar project for almost 30 years, thanks to the financing of the Governments of Spain and Gibraltar. In 2006, after a publication in the journal Nature, this territory became a paradigmatic place as they found - despite the resistance of other researchers and experts - the latest evidence of the presence of Neanderthals in Europe. And, then, we already showed that the remains of the Mousterian industry were later than those that appeared in other parts of Europe ", underlines the co-director of the project, Joaquín Rodríguez Vidal, from the University of Huelva.

In recent years, the professor suggests, there have been several unique discoveries, such as the first world evidences of engravings made by Neanderthals (found, precisely, in the Gorham Cave, now a World Heritage Site).

A lifeline

The Aeolian Pleistocene sand deposits recorded in the Rock of Gibraltar are a perfect lifeline for researchers. In areas, these accumulations form sand ramps up to 35 degrees slope, 1 kilometer long and up to 300 meters high. " They are slightly carbonated sands and weakly cemented, which means that any record is kept in optimal conditions, " Muñiz and Rodríguez Vidal comment.

In these beds "up to five morphotypes of mammal tracks belonging to Homininae, Proboscidea, Artiodactila and Carnivora have been recognized" says Dr. Muñiz. The affinity between the tracks and their markers has been established based on their physical parameters, the shape, their comparison with similar footprints and the correlation with the fossil fauna of vertebrates described in the late Pleistocene in Gibraltar caves. "These findings represent the first paleo-ecological record in the Aeolian sediments of Gibraltar and indirectly corroborate the occupation of the coastal dune landscape by several terrestrial mammals during the late Pleistocene. A landscape similar to the current Doñana. "The authors of the work comment.

Contacts and sources:
University of Seville


Following the last Neanderthals: Mammal tracks in Late Pleistocene coastal dunes of Gibraltar (S Iberian Peninsula)
Fernando Muñiz, Luis M. Cáceres, Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal, Carlos Neto de Carvalho, João Belo, Clive Finlayson, Geraldine Finlayson, Stewart Finlayson, Tatiana Izquierdo, Manuel Abad, Francisco J. Jiménez-Espejo, Saiko Sugisaki, Paula Gómez, Francisco Ruiz.. Quaternary Science Reviews, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.01.013

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