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Nature. 2016 Jun 2;534(7605):111-4. doi: 10.1038/nature18291. Epub 2016 May 25.

Early Neanderthal constructions deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwestern France.

Author information

1
PACEA, UMR 5199 CNRS-UB-MCC University of Bordeaux, 33615 Pessac, France.
2
Earth &History of Life, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, 1000 Brussels, Belgium.
3
AMGC, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.
4
LSCE, UMR 8212 CNRS-CEA-UVSQ, 91400 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
5
Société spéléologique et archéologique de Caussade, 5 rue Bourdelle 82300 Caussade, France.
6
Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710049, China.
7
Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.
8
Protée Expert Sas, 30250 Sommières, France.
9
Faculté Polytechnique, University of Mons, 7000-Mons, Belgium.
10
Laboratoire de Géologie de l'École Normale Supérieure de Paris (ENS), UMR CNRS 8538, 75000 Paris, France.
11
Archéosphère, 11500 Quirbajou, France.
12
Get in Situ, 1091 Bourg-en-Lavaux, Switzerland.
13
LIENSs, UMR 7266 CNRS-University of La Rochelle, 17000 La Rochelle, France.
14
Ministry of Culture, Regional Archaeological Service of Midi-Pyrénées, 31080 Toulouse, France.
15
Archéostransfert, Archéovision, UMS 3657 SHS-3D, 33007 Pessac, France.

Abstract

Very little is known about Neanderthal cultures, particularly early ones. Other than lithic implements and exceptional bone tools, very few artefacts have been preserved. While those that do remain include red and black pigments and burial sites, these indications of modernity are extremely sparse and few have been precisely dated, thus greatly limiting our knowledge of these predecessors of modern humans. Here we report the dating of annular constructions made of broken stalagmites found deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwest France. The regular geometry of the stalagmite circles, the arrangement of broken stalagmites and several traces of fire demonstrate the anthropogenic origin of these constructions. Uranium-series dating of stalagmite regrowths on the structures and on burnt bone, combined with the dating of stalagmite tips in the structures, give a reliable and replicated age of 176.5 thousand years (±2.1 thousand years), making these edifices among the oldest known well-dated constructions made by humans. Their presence at 336 metres from the entrance of the cave indicates that humans from this period had already mastered the underground environment, which can be considered a major step in human modernity.

PMID:
27251286
DOI:
10.1038/nature18291
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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