Forty thousand years ago in Europe, at least three other human strains lived on Earth, the most famous being the Neanderthals, who are distinguished by their strong structure, short stature, and thick eyebrows. Neanderthals have settled in several regions in Europe for more than 300,000 years, and it was remarkably similar to modern humans.
Excavations indicate that the last group of the Neanderthal dynasty lived, before its extinction, in areas such as the Rock of Gibraltar at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, and its effects disappeared 28 thousand years ago, a date that is likely to have witnessed the extinction of Neanderthals. New evidence has been found to prove that Neanderthals are more similar to modern humans (Homo sapiens) or Homo sapiens.
UNESCO listed the four vast caves in the Rock of Gibraltar on the World Heritage List in 2016. While the secrets of three of them have yet to be discovered, the Gorham Cave is subject to annual excavation and exploration.
“These caves were more like a city for the Neanderthal strain,” Clive Finlayson, director of antiquities at the Gibraltar Museum says. “We discovered that they are home to the largest group of Neanderthal bones in Europe, which may belong to dozens of people or a few families. Multiple “.
The first complete skull of an adult Neanderthal was discovered in Gibraltar in 1848, after which the bones of seven others were found, in addition to many traces they used in their daily lives, such as tools, animal bones, and mother of pearl.
The excavations discovered in the rock layers, which are inferred from the different geological ages, indicate that the Neanderthals did not settle in the cave, but rather moved to and from it for more than 100 thousand years.
Scientists believe that the Gibraltar region is the last area in which Neanderthals settled before its extinction, as the last of the rocky layers that contain its effects in Gorham Cave dates back to 24 thousand years.
Clive says that Neanderthals may have migrated to coastal areas as well, but that rising water levels over the past 30,000 years may have drowned other fossils.
The front of Gorham Cave overlooks the ocean, is sunlit, and the dark back includes several rooms. The caves provided an ideal safe haven for Neanderthals, as they were cold in the summer months and relatively warm in the cooler months.
Contrary to the popular image of Neanderthals, which appears as a barbaric, clumsy, tall being who strikes everyone approaching him, a presentation of studies by Paula Villa of the University of Colorado Boulder indicated that Neanderthals likened us very much according to genetic analyzes. A study concluded that the DNA of modern humans and the DNA of Neanderthals are at least 99.5 percent identical.
Scientists attribute this to the fact that when modern people migrated from Africa to Europe, he met Neanderthal many times, and mating and reproduction occurred. And all human beings from outside Africa still bear evidence of this genetic mixing that occurred during prehistoric times.
In a study of thousands of people, the researchers concluded that modern humans still carry about 20 percent of the Neanderthal DNA.
Excavations in the layers of the walls of Groham’s Cave indicate that Neanderthals were eating seafood and marine mammals, and new evidence, published last month, indicated that Neanderthals could swim. There is evidence to prove that Neanderthals were hunting dolphins in some way and large animals, such as mammoths, mystic rhinos and deer, and he may have eaten their carcasses, Clive says.
The bones of 150 different species of birds, many bearing dental marks, were also found in Groham’s Cave, indicating that Neanderthals were eating them.
Evidence has also been found to demonstrate that Neanderthals were hunting prey birds such as the Golden Eagle. However, we do not yet know how these birds were hunted. But he certainly would not catch her only to eat her meat.
Finlayson says that most of the cut marks that we found on the remains of birds were at the bones of the wings that contained little meat, and it appears that they were hunting these birds to get their feathers. They preferred birds with black feathers, perhaps to be used for decorative purposes such as ornaments.
Clive and his team reenacted some Neanderthal habits, such as dissecting a dead eagle to separate his body from his feathered cover, and transform it into a black feathered robe. Clive says Neanderthals may have been putting him on his shoulders.
In 2014, Clive and his wife, Geraldine, discovered signs on the wall of the Gorham Cave that formed the first evidence of Neanderthals technical skills. Archaeologists have proven that these inscriptions were intended because the excavations required mental effort.
Scientists have also discovered evidence that Neanderthals were using oysters and red ocher tinctures for ornamental purposes, and this indicates that Neanderthals possessed capabilities that were thought to be exclusive to modern humans.
In 2013, a team from the University of New England, Australia, searched for the Neanderthal lamellar bone, which plays an important role in speech. The researchers concluded that these bones of Neanderthals are similar to those of modern humans, which means that they were speaking as modern humans speak.
And as long as Neanderthals were talking, this meant that he was exchanging information about things like making tools, and perhaps modern humans learned from him some information.
Researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands, in areas where only modern humans lived, found a device that was common in Neanderthal caves. This tool was made from parts of deer ribs and was used to soften animal skin. Mary Sourisy, who led the research team, says this revelation indicates that the modern man who met the Neanderthals was emulating the hand tools he used.
The modern man, who had been living in Africa, learned from Neanderthals, who had lived for many years in Europe, how to deal with the cold European weather.
The ability of Neanderthals to use tools reveals how similar it is to modern humans. Neandertals have adapted and harnessed their environment. Evidence was also found to demonstrate that Neanderthals were burying their dead.
But there are differences between the Neanderthal dynasty and the modern man, with evidence that modern humans are still alive while the Neanderthals have gone extinct. In the years before his death, Neanderthals faced challenges that he was not prepared to deal with.
John Stewart, from Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, notes that the Neanderthals were unable to hunt small animals, such as rabbits, that modern humans have mastered hunting, because Neanderthal used semi-combat hunting methods that were suitable for large animals, but did not enable him to hunt rabbits, To provide the food needed to survive in seasons where food is scarce. While modern humans used many tricks to hunt these small prey, such as nets and traps.
Evidence also indicates that the Neanderthal dynasty lived in harsh environments, as coldness in other parts of Europe forced them to move south towards Gibraltar.
The weather in Europe and Asia has changed dramatically, every few thousand years, from warmth to freezing cold, says Chris Stringer, senior researcher on human origins at the Natural Museum in London.
When the last group of Neanderthals reached Gibraltar, their numbers decreased dramatically because of their tendency to intermarry with relatives, which increases the chances of transmission of genetic disorders.
A study conducted in 2019 indicated that the fertility of women among Neanderthals decreased due to the lack of food, because a decrease in body fat may lead to sterility.
Prior to their extinction, the numbers of Neanderthals fell to the point of no return. Although Neanderthals lived, as his predecessors lived for many years, climate change reduced his chances of survival.
And when life becomes a struggle for survival, human ability to innovate and spread culture is weakened. In his later years, the Neanderthals did not stand up to animals and diseases.
But despite what is said about its extinction, we still carry many Neanderthal genes, and its mark will remain on the human race for thousands of years.