But a rare combination of freezing polar air blowing down the
Rhone valley and Saharan air blowing north seems to have helped cool
this part of the Mediterranean Sea, contributing to the severe
Gorham's Cave on Gibraltar shows evidence of occupation by
groups of Neanderthals until 24,000 years ago. But thereafter,
researchers have found no signs of their presence.
However, in an interesting new development, scientists are
also now reporting another site, from south-eastern Spain, which has yielded
evidence for the late survival of Neanderthals.
In a study published in the journal Geobios, Jose Carrion,
Santiago Fernandez Jimenez, from the University of Murcia; and
colleagues analysed pollen from soil layers at Carihuela cave to
determine how vegetation had changed in the area during the past
They also obtained ages for sediment samples from the cave,
using radiocarbon dating and uranium-thorium dating.
Sediment layers containing Neanderthal tools were found to date
from 45,000 years ago until 21,000 years ago.
These radiocarbon dates are 'raw', and do not exactly correspond
to calendar dates. They cannot therefore be compared directly with
those from Gibraltar, which are calibrated.
Spanish archaeologists carried out a detailed excavation of
Carihuela between 1979 and 1992. But the cave is currently closed
due to a dispute between national and regional governments over
rights to dig there.
Neanderthal bones have also been excavated from these sediment
units, including a male skull fragment which could potentially be
very recent. But Professor Carrion is reluctant to draw conclusions.
'The human bones have been recovered in different excavation
campaigns over fifty years. The relationship between them and the dates
I provide must be treated with caution,' Professor Carrion
He added that sediments in parts of the cave could have been
churned up, mixing old bones in with younger material.
Clive Finlayson suggested the late Neanderthal dates from
Carihuela might agree well with those from Gibraltar once they were
Principal sites showing the most recent evidence of Neanderthals
- notice how the later populations are all congregated in Iberia