Gibraltar's 40,000-Year-Old Neanderthal Cave
There, stone tools, hearths, and the remains of slain animals, such as red deer, ibex, seals, and dolphins, were found.
Director of the Gibraltar National Museum and evolutionary biologist Professor Clive Finlayson recently led a group of specialists down the shore’s of Gibraltar to the massive Gorham's Cave Complex. Finlayson and his team went into the Vanguard Cave, which had been nearly totally sealed off by a rockfall and behind this area is 40,000 year old Neanderthal settlement. Anthropologically speaking , this is the equivalent of a gold mine.
Now that Finlayson's team has discovered the thirteen-meter (42-foot) deep chamber we have a glimpse of what it was used for. A little bear, whose remains were also discovered at the location, is likely responsible for the scratch marks on the wall as well as the carcasses of lynx, hyena, and griffon vultures. The largest discovery, according to Finlayson, may have been a giant whelk shell since it suggests that Neanderthals once lived in these recently discovered portions of the cave. He explains,
“The whelk is at the back of that cave…it’s probably about 20 meters (65 feet) from the beach… Somebody took that whelk in there…over 40,000 years ago. So that’s already given me a hint that people have been in there, which is not perhaps too surprising. Those people, because of the age, can only be Neanderthals.”
Finlayson also revealed the team had found a baby tooth belonging to a Neanderthal who was about four years old. The scientists also suggested that a hyena might have dragged the youngster into the cave.
His team noticed a change in the cave's ice formations that indicated an earthquake that had happened around 4,000 years ago. They noticed that a previously formed ice curtain had been severed, and stalagmites were now growing underneath it, indicating that rocks had fallen as a result of the temblor. The groundbreaking find is just the start of a complete excavation of the cave complex; according to Finlayson, the chamber he and his colleagues discovered was actually just the cave's roof, and much more will undoubtedly be found below it.
“As we dig, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger,” Finlayson said. “So the chances are we have an enormous cave there. And as we go down there may even be so passages. So it’s extremely exciting.”
The biologist said that he felt "goosebumps" after learning about the cave. The cave offers priceless opportunity for research and education about the lives of these early humans thanks to its well-preserved animal and bone remains.
Finlayson plans to use DNA analysis to learn more about the Neanderthals who lived in the cave in the future decades utilizing any materials that may still be present in the cave's sediments. The enormous cave complex may contain burial sites, which could lead to discoveries about burial procedures, based on other caves where Neanderthals have been found to have resided. Additionally, he expressed the prospect of finding Neanderthal footprints in Vanguard Cave.
According to fossil evidence found at the Swanscombe site in Kent and the Sima de los Huesos site in northern Spain, Neanderthals were well-established in Europe by 400 000 years ago. A second Neanderthal skull was recently discovered in the North Sea between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, in a region that was formerly dry ground.