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Close encounters of the third kind?

Neanderthals and modern humans in Belgium, a bone story

G.C.M.G. Abrams
23 May 2023
The publication in Open Access

The dynamics of the transition between late Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans (AMHs) are the subject of intense debate: the location and duration of the coexistence of these two hominins, as well as their relation and cultural exchanges that could have occurred during this transitional period also known as the Middle Palaeolithic to Upper Palaeolithic Transition⁠.Timing these hominins is crucial in archaeology and paleoanthropology⁠. The precise chronological position of the different cultural facies, as well as the human remains associated with them, are therefore key elements that delineate the chronological framework within which Neanderthals and AMHs could have interacted⁠. While there is increasing evidence of admixture and co-existence of the two hominin species in central and eastern Europe, Belgium might show a different scenario: radiocarbon analyses, using the compound specific radiocarbon dating approach (CSRA) made on bone implements related to the Late Mousterian and the Early Aurignacian as well as late Neanderthal remains, highlight a hiatus in the occupation of the territory⁠. Our new data tend to confirm that Neanderthals and AMHs did not coexist in this region⁠. It seems that in northwest Europe, Neanderthals evolved and went extinct without any influence from modern humans⁠.

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