A new study published in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal found that modern humans and Neanderthals lived side-by-side in Europe some 45,000 years ago.
A team of researchers recently conducted a series of excavations at a medieval castle site in Ranis, Germany, and discovered 13 bone fragments that were found to belong to early Homo sapiens. The discovery serves as proof that humans settled in Europe earlier than it was previously believed and did so at the time when Neanderthals still roamed the Earth.
“The Ranis Cave site provides evidence for the first dispersal of Homo sapiens across the higher latitudes of Europe. It turns out that stone artifacts that were thought to be produced by Neanderthals were, in fact, part of the early Homo sapiens toolkit,” says paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin, one of the authors of the study. “This fundamentally changes our previous knowledge about the period: Homo sapiens reached northwestern Europe long before Neanderthal disappearance in southwestern Europe.”
The study also suggests that the stone tools and weapons, previously attributed to Neanderthals, might have been crafted by humans.
The researchers now plan to investigate to which extent humans and Neanderthals crossed paths. They hope that their findings will help shed more light on the disappearance of Neanderthals and perhaps help us learn more about our own development as a species.