Evidence of Europe’s first Homo sapiens found in French cave
Archaeologists have found evidence that Europe’s first Homo sapiens lived briefly in a rock shelter in southern France - before mysteriously vanishing.
A study published on 9 February in Science Advances argues that distinctive stone tools and a lone child’s tooth were left by Homo sapiens during a short stay, some 54,000 years ago - and not by Neanderthals, who lived in the rock shelter for thousands of years before and after that time.
The Homo sapiens occupation, which researchers estimate lasted for just a few decades, pre-dates the previous earliest known evidence of the species in Europe by around 10,000 years.
But some researchers are not so sure that the stone tools or tooth were left by Homo sapiens. The researchers have uncovered tens of thousands of stone tools and animal bones, as well as 9 hominin teeth, all dating from around 70,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Most of the stone tools resemble artefacts categorized as ‘Mousterian technology’ that are found at Neanderthal sites across Eurasia, says Slimak. But one of the shelter’s archaeological levels - known as layer E and dated to between 56,800 and 51,700 years ago - contains tools such as sharpened points and small blades that are more typical of early Homo sapiens technology. Slimak says the layer E stone tools resemble those found at much younger sites in southern France, left by makers unknown, as well as those from similarly aged sites in the Middle East that are linked to Homo sapiens.