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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Neanderthals built mystery underground circles 175,000 years ago

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 chemistry,medicine 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.

Natural limestone growths have begun to cover parts of the structure, so by dating these growths a team led byJacques Jaubert at the University of Bordeaux could work out an approximate age for the stalagmite constructions.


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