There’s been a bit of noise with the confirmation of the vanishing of Neanderthals from the Caucasus c. 40,000 years ago (but this was something we already knew, right?) but specially with the demonstration that the artifacts found in one of the most northernly sites of the time (Byzovaya, in today’s Komi Republic) are typical Mousterian as others from Central and Eastern Europe of the time and hence most probably of Neanderthal making.
L. Slimak et al. Late Mousterian presence near the Arctic Circle. Science 2011. Pay per view.
It is interesting to notice that this site is not really new, and that there is another even more northernly site, Mamontovaya Kurya, further north, above the Arctic Circle. However when Svensen and Pavlov reviewed the site (see below) they argued for modern H. sapiens based only in the prejudice that no other Neanderthal sites were known so far North.
|“Neanderthal finds” refers to skeletal ones only and they have forgotten Palestine anyhow|
It is important to emphasize that no skeletal remains have been found and that the adscription of these Mousterian findings to the species H. neanderthalensis is founded on the fact that only Neanderthals are known to have used that kind of Mousterian technology in that area. One could make a knee-jerk not Neanderthals case but it seems quite futile after considering the general context.
This finding seems to reinforce the idea of a penetration of our ancestors of the H. sapiens species in all Western Eurasia c. 40,000 years ago (50-30 Ka. roughly) fragmenting the pre-existent Neanderthal populations into a handful of isolated pockets (Komi Republic, Southern Iberia, Croatia, Southern Italy…), which would be made up of very few people each, eventually succumbing anyhow either to further expansions of our ancestors, ecological pressures or mere lack of genetic diversity caused by fragmentation itself.
On the other hand it emphasizes the striking intelligence and adaptability of Neanderthals, able to colonize such an extreme habitat.
(Thanks to Tim, by the way).