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Neanderthals built mystery underground circles 175,000 years ago

Neanderthals built mystery underground circles 175,000 years ago

New Scientist

Image: Xavier MUTH – Get in Situ, Archéotransfert, Archéovision -SHS-3D, base photographique Pascal Mora

They worked by torchlight, following the same procedure hour after hour: wrench a stalagmite off the cave floor, remove the tip and base, and carefully lay it with the others.

Today we can only guess as to why a group of Neanderthals built a series of large stalagmite structures in a French cave – but the fact they did provides a rare glimpse into our extinct cousin’s potential for social organisation in a challenging environment.

Gone are the days when we thought of Neanderthals as crude and unintelligent.

Archaeological evidence now suggests they were capable of symbolic thought, had a basic knowledge of chemistrymedicine and cooking, and perhaps some capacity for speech. They may even have taught modern humans new artisanal skills when the two species met and interbred.

A reassessment of evidence from Bruniquel cave, near Toulouse in south-west France, suggests even more Neanderthal sophistication. In one chamber, 336 metres from the cave entrance, are enigmatic structures – including a ring 7 metres across – built from stalagmites snapped from the cave floor. Read more on…