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Improved dating of Neanderthal remains
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Researchers report ages of Neanderthal remains using an improved dating technique. Neanderthal remains from Vindija Cave in northern Croatia have been previously dated at approximately 32,000 years old, making them the most recent known Neanderthal remains and implying considerable temporal overlap between Neanderthals and modern humans in Central Europe. Thibaut Deviese and colleagues dated four Neanderthal bone samples from Vindija, one of which was previously unidentified, by extracting the amino acid hydroxyproline (HYP) from bone collagen. Because HYP occurs almost exclusively in collagen, dating purified HYP removed modern contaminants, including conservation materials, from the specimens. The authors obtained dates older than 40,000 years for all four sets of Neanderthal remains, far older than previously obtained dates. Dating of animal bones from the same layer as the Neanderthal bones yielded a wide range of dates. The finding suggests that postdepositional mixing of material has occurred, and therefore Upper Paleolithic tools found alongside the Neanderthal bones may not necessarily date from the same period. The Neanderthals at Vindija Cave likely did not overlap with modern humans, and were not part of a late-surviving, refugial population as previously thought, according to the authors.

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Article #17-09235: "Direct dating of Neanderthal remains from the site of Vindija Cave and implications for the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition," by Thibaut Deviese et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Thibaut Deviese, University of Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM; tel: +44-1865285203, +44-7552945085; e-mail: <thibaut.deviese@rlaha.ox.ac.uk>

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