The new Arctic discoveries present a much tougher call. The stone implements — manufactured between 34,000 and 31,000 years ago at Byzovaya, a site in Russia’s Ural Mountains — resemble scraping and cutting tools associated with 130,000- to 30,000-year-old European Neandertals, Slimak and his colleagues report in the May 13 Science. To complicate matters, groups of Homo sapiens that lived in northern Africa and southwestern Asia between 200,000 and 45,000 years ago made tools like those of Neandertals.
If Neandertals held court at Byzovaya, then these stocky members of the human evolutionary family lived near groups of H. sapiens that reached the Russian Arctic by 36,000 years ago. If modern humans made the distinctive Byzovaya tools, “it would imply that Arctic H. sapiens groups preserved an older Stone Age culture after the expansion of modern societies in the rest of Eurasia,” Slimak says.
Story: Bruce Bower, Sciencenews | Photo: Hugues Plisson, Science/AAAS