Early Neanderthal constructions deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwestern France

Jacques Jaubert, Sophie Verheyden, Dominique Genty, Michel Soulier, Hai Cheng, Dominique Blamart, Christian Burlet, Hubert Camus, Serge Delaby, Damien Deldicque, R. Lawrence Edwards, Catherine Ferrier, François Lacrampe-Cuyaubère, François Lévêque, Frédéric Maksud, Pascal Mora, Xavier Muth, Édouard Régnier, Jean Noël Rouzaud, Frédéric Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations

Abstract

Very little is known about Neanderthal cultures, particularly early ones. Other than lithic implements and exceptional bone tools, very few artefacts have been preserved. While those that do remain include red and black pigments and burial sites, these indications of modernity are extremely sparse and few have been precisely dated, thus greatly limiting our knowledge of these predecessors of modern humans. Here we report the dating of annular constructions made of broken stalagmites found deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwest France. The regular geometry of the stalagmite circles, the arrangement of broken stalagmites and several traces of fire demonstrate the anthropogenic origin of these constructions. Uranium-series dating of stalagmite regrowths on the structures and on burnt bone, combined with the dating of stalagmite tips in the structures, give a reliable and replicated age of 176.5 thousand years (±2.1 thousand years), making these edifices among the oldest known well-dated constructions made by humans. Their presence at 336 metres 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-114
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume534
Issue number7605
DOIs
StatePublished - May 25 2016

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