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Greek contact for humans, Neanderthals?

Greek contact for humans, Neanderthals?

Stone tools recently found in eastern Greece may be the products of Neanderthals who borrowed styles of tool manufacturing from anatomically modern humans also living in the region, according to a report presented earlier this month at the First Joint Archaeology Congress in Baltimore.

The discoveries support the controversial hypothesis that Neanderthals and modern humans evolved separately, with Neanderthals hitting an evolutionary dead-end around 30,000 years ago (SN: 2/27/88, p.138), says Curtis Runnels of Boston University, who describes the finds in the just-released Fall 1988 JOURNAL OF FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY.

In 1987, Runnels and his co-workers located 32 archaeological sites along Greece's Peneios River and in nearby caves and rock shelters. The sites yielded 211 stone tools. Most of the artifacts were found on terraces of the river or eroded banks of the riverbed.

Radiocarbon dates for the layers of river sediment where the artifacts lay range from 45,000 to 27,000 years ago, Runnels says. Comparable dates have been obrained at other Greek sites with similar stone tools.

Some of the tools found by Runnels, such as "leafpoints" sharpened on both sides and scrapers, resemble artifacts associated with Neanderthals. Others, including retouched blades, flints with beveled points and leafpoints with rounded bases, are more like the tools of early modern humans.

The Greek material is similar to stone tools from Hungary and Bulgaria dated to about the same time period, Runnels says. Researchers have suggested the latter artifacts were produced by Neanderthals who were in contact with anatomically modern humans some time after 38,000 years ago.

Since no human bones have yet turned up at the Greek sites, the origin of the stone tools remains unclear, Runnels acknowledges. Nonetheless, he asserts, these artifacts vanish from Greece's archaeological record at the same time as the disappearance of Neanderthals from Europe and the Near East, making their manufacture by Neanderthals the best bet for now.

There is no evidence for human occupation between 27,000 and 9,000 years ago at the sites studied by Runnels. He suggest the region was uninhabited or little used between the disappearance of Neanderthals and the founding of Late Stone Age agricultural settlements.
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Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 21, 1989
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