Tags: stalagmite | neanderthal | france | discovery | archeology

Stalagmite Circles in France Credited to Neanderthals

Stalagmite Circles in France Credited to Neanderthals
A visitor looks at a scientifically based impression of the face of a Neanderthal who lived some 50,000 years. (Photo by Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 25 May 2016 05:43 PM

Mysterious stalagmite circles found in a French cave are the work of Neanderthal builders, who lived in the region roughly 175,000 years before modern humans set foot in Europe, new research shows.

The research, reported in the journal, Nature, shows Neanderthal workers used nearly 400 stalagmites that were yanked from the ground and stacked on top of one another to produce rudimentary walls on the cave floor.

The most prominent formations are two ringed walls — built four layers deep in places — that appear to have been propped up with stalagmites wedged in place as vertical stays, according to the research.

"This discovery provides clear evidence that Neanderthals had fully human capabilities in the planning and the construction of 'stone' structures, and that some of them penetrated deep into caves, where artificial lighting would have been essential," paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, tells National Geographic

The structures were found in Bruniquel Cave in southwest France, a region littered with decorated caves and other Paleolithic sites.

In 1990, spelunkers excavated its entrance and squeezed through, finding signs of long-vanished cave bears and other extinct megafauna just inside, National Geographic reports.

But the walls are "completely different to anything we have seen before. I find it very mysterious," said Marie Soressi, an archaeologist at Leiden University who was not involved in the research.

They also rank among the earliest human building projects ever discovered, the Guardian reports

Local cavers happened on the formations in the 1990s, but the structures were assumed to be 50,000 years old, the same age as burnt animal remains found nearby, the Guardian reports.

New tests on the structures reported in Nature reveal the walls to be at least 175,000 years old. And according to the French and Belgian scientists who led the research, only Neanderthals could have built them.

Neanderthals lived in Eurasia from about 400,000 to 40,000 years ago and died out just as modern humans arrived in the region.

And though they've been thought of 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, New Scientist reports

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Mysterious stalagmite circles found in a French cave are the work of Neanderthal builders, who lived in the region roughly 175,000 years before modern humans set foot in Europe, new research shows.
stalagmite, neanderthal, france, discovery, archeology
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2016-43-25
Wednesday, 25 May 2016 05:43 PM
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