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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2019 / Dating the latest appearance of Neanderthals in Belgium

Thibaut Devièse, Grégory Abrams, Kévin Di Modica, Dan Comeskey, Isabelle De Groote, Patrick Semal and Tom Higham (2019)

Dating the latest appearance of Neanderthals in Belgium

In: Proceedings of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution, vol. 8, pp. 51, European Society for the study of Human Evolution, Liège, Belgium.

Belgium represents a key region for studying the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition (MUPT) in North-West Europe. This area sits at the crossroads between Palaeolithic cultural facies with influences from eastern, western and southern Europe intermingling during the Late Middle Palaeolithic and the MUPT. Until recently, a temporal gap believed to be around 4ka (ca 42-38 ky calBP) existed between the Late Mousterian and the earliest dated Aurignacian settlements in the region [1, 2]. The dates obtained on Neanderthal remains from Spy fell into this gap, making them the latest Neanderthals in the region [3]. Including the dates from Spy, a gap of two millennia remained between the dates on Neanderthals and the beginning of the Aurignacian. Based on this chronological evidence, the transition from Neanderthals to Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) in this region was believed to have been without contact between species. AMH would have settled in an area Neanderthals abandoned long before. As part of the PalaeoChron project, we have redated the Neanderthal specimens from Spy (tooth, maxilla and scapula), Engis 2 (skull and tooth) and Fond-de-Forêt (femur), using the compound specific radiocarbon dating method in place at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. This method is based on the extraction of the amino acid hydroxyproline that occurs in mammalian collagen using preparative liquid chromatography. This method is more efficient than others in eliminating modern carbon contamination such as conservation materials. In this presentation, we report the new radiocarbon dates obtained on the Belgian Neanderthal specimens. These results show how much impact sample preparation can have on the AMS measurement when specimens have been heavily preserved with conservation materials, which is often the case for human remains. These results also now place the Belgian Neanderthal remains from Spy, Engis and Fond-de-Forêt in their proper chronometric context and allow us to refine our understanding of the disappearance of Neanderthals in north-western Europe and integrate this with other evidence for the human occupation of this region during the Palaeolithic.

Peer Review, RBINS Collection(s), Open Access, Abstract of an Oral Presentation or a Poster

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