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Palaeontology

Neanderthal-built stone rings found in cave

By T.K. Randall
May 25, 2016 · Comment icon 16 comments



The Neanderthals were far from primitive. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Tim Evanson
Remarkable prehistoric structures made from stalagmites have been discovered inside a cave in France.
Our Neanderthal cousins, far from being simple 'cavemen', were likely to have been the intellectual equals of modern humans - a conclusion further cemented this week by a new discovery in France.

Deep within the darkness of Bruniquel Cave near the Pyrénées mountains, scientists have unearthed several stone ring structures that are believed to date back over 175,000 years.

The prehistoric builders of these rings were no dimwits, having harvested the tops of stalagmites before arranging them in a circle on the cave floor - all while illuminated only by the light of a fire.

"Their presence at 336m from the entrance of the cave indicates that humans from this period had already mastered the underground environment, which can be considered a major step in human modernity," the researchers wrote.

It is likely that several individuals were involved in the construction of the rings and that the cave would have provided not only a place to build but also warmth and shelter as well.

"At around 175,000 years, these must have been made by early Neanderthals, the only known human inhabitants of Europe at this time," said Prof Chris Stringer.

Source: BBC News | Comments (16)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by DieChecker 6 years ago
From the UM article:   Uhh... But my 4 year old son does the same thing with lego constructs. He probably could even start a fire. Even 2 year olds will build little forts around themselves. And their brains are about a quarter that of an adult. I find this to be a sign of intelligence and engineering, but not necessarily of an equal intelligence to our current level. Don't they say that some dogs have the understanding of a 2 year old?
Comment icon #8 Posted by DieChecker 6 years ago
I've often speculated that modern humans learned art and ceremonial religion from the Neanderthals. I don't know of much evidence of either in association with modern humans before the two groups met.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Hammerclaw 6 years ago
There's a deeply engrained prejudice against Neanderthals that persists. They were so like us the interbred with us. Also, it's curious that the most beautiful artistic expression from so remote a time occurs only on the walls of caves within the Neanderthal heartland.
Comment icon #10 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
This truly is an amazing find. I especially like the fact that the cave entrance was blocked/hidden from outside view for 10's of thousands of years, presumably by a land/rock slide.   EDIT: Kinda reminds me of the "intactness" of the King Tut tomb due to it being hidden by some type of rock slide.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Mike Fox 6 years ago
A little more information here: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2090183-neanderthals-built-mystery-underground-circles-175000-years-ago/ I think the removal of the tip and base of the stalagmite gives an intriguing clue. To me it looks like sections of mammoth tusk, stacked around, as if they were replicating the success of a Neanderthal hunting scene, or the base of a hut. It's interesting if so, as later Mousterian (homo sapiens) huts had mammoth bones and tusks to provide structure. Perhaps they learned from others...? Mike
Comment icon #12 Posted by Everdred 6 years ago
Interesting find.  Keep in mind when speculating that this feature is over 300m deep inside the cave, shrouded in pitch black darkness.  So It's definitely not any sort of habitation site, and it's not an easily accessible place--they had to control fire and trek deep into the cave to reach the site.   I'm personally tempted to think there may be some sort of connection to a conception of the underworld.  Perhaps it was a place to worship or contact the dead.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Gingitsune 6 years ago
This is obviously a fighting ring.  About Neandertals' pigmentation:https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129542-600-neanderthal-human-sex-bred-light-skins-and-infertility/ There is also a mutation on another gene which hint some Neandertal were redhaired with freakles.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Hammerclaw 6 years ago
That deep in the cave, the temperature would have remained well above freezing in winter and deliciously cool in summer. The Neanderthals took advantage of natural central heat and air!
Comment icon #15 Posted by Dyna 6 years ago
Here we go again, if it doesn't fit hid it, stinks to high heaven!     This is partly because the previous work wasn’t published in the international scientific literature, but Villa thinks there was another reason the Bruniquel finds were overlooked in the late 90s and early 2000s: mainstream scientific thinking at the time simply rejected the idea of Neanderthals as intelligent and sophisticated. “[it] ran against the prevailing and damning views of Neanderthal inferiority compared to modern humans,” Villa says. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2090183-neanderthals-built-mystery-undergro... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
A real cool find!  Is it my imagination or does the picture of the Neanderthal used looks like Danny Trejo?


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