Neanderthal Bones!

Over the course of 13 years, a group of archaeologists from Greece and France excavated a cave in Greece, known as Kalamakia.  The cave is about 65 feet deep, and is situated in limestone cliffs on the west coast of a peninsula on the Greek mainland.  The team, led by Katerina Harvati, found archaeological deposits from 39,000 to 100,000 years ago.  The team found scrapers and tools which were characteristically Neanderthal in design, made of flint, seashells, and quartz.  In addition, they also found portions of 14 skeletons in the cave – mostly small bone fragments and teeth.  This, however, was enough to show that there was a “thriving and long-standing” population of Neanderthals that lived in the area.  This is the first discovery of Neanderthal remains in Greece, and inspires the idea that there may be many more undiscovered remains of Neanderthals in the country.

The remains date to the Middle Paleolithic, during the ice age.  Like similar sites in France and other areas around the Mediterranean, the site had a mild climate, and supported human and Neanderthal populations, in addition to a wide range of wildlife.  The team says that there is evidence that the populations in the area coexisted with “deer, wild boar, rabbits, elephants, weasels, foxes, wolves, leopards, bears, falcons, toads, vipers and tortoises.”

The discovery of Neanderthal remains in the cave reinforce the prevailing theory of human and Neanderthal dispersal from Africa, as they lie right along one of the primary routes that early ancestors may have taken.  The remains are of both children and adults, showing that this wasn’t some sort of isolated hunting camp, but a location that full families lived at, likely for extended periods of time.

The discovery wasn’t made before now because the majority of archaeologists working in Greece are focused on the rich classical archaeological resources that the country has to offer.  In the future, the team hopes to investigate a myriad of similar sites in Greece, which would help to answer more questions about Neanderthals.  Of particular interest to the team are the questions that this find raises about possible human-Neanderthal coexistence and their spread into Europe.    The location of this specific cave also inspires questions about the seafaring capabilities of both ancient humans and Neanderthals.

This site is significant to archaeology today because it reflects the vast archeological resources that are still available for excavation around the world today.   There has been so much history, especially in a place as richly cultural as Greece, that we can’t just focus on one aspect of history, but that there is so much more to discover from other periods of time.  This holds for other sites around the world as well, and proves that there is a massive amout of discoveries that have yet to be made.



2 thoughts on “Neanderthal Bones!

  1. I have always been interested in the lives of Neanderthals and how they lived the lives they did. So I found your post very cool because I sometimes forget that the bodies and remains of those people have to be around on this earth somewhere. The fact that they were found in Greece is really cool because like you said, they are generally focused on other parts of archaeology there. Whenever something extremely old like that is found, I always have the same reaction “Wow!” It never ceases to amaze me, that our species (or at least a species close to us) has existed for that many thousands of years.
    You also bring up the idea that all “human” life began in Africa, which I think is a very interesting idea. I do not all that much about it, but to me it makes sense that our kind all came from one area. And as time goes on there only seems to be more and more evidence that this theory is true. There is still so much to discover, and so much more to learn about the past of this world. This discovery is just another example that we archaeologists have not found everything yet.

  2. I find it very interesting that it has taken until now to finally find bones from Neanderthals in Greece. Giving how many remains are found elsewhere, and not being the most knowledgeable about the topic I just assumed that remains had already been found there. Turns out I was wrong. I certainly hope that more remains are found in the country because it would significantly improve our collective knowledge on the subject. The reason you give for why more effort has not been focused on Neanderthals in that country makes perfect sense though. Why dig for stuff when you can basically throw a rock and hit ruins from some civilization or another. It is also interesting to take note of the fact that the Neanderthal community found is remarkably similar to those elsewhere in Europe. They used similar tools and hunted similar game for food. Showing how Neanderthals and humanity spread during those ancient times is another exciting question. There is still much debate over how exactly it spread and at what times. Hopefully, this find will shed some light on that question and future finds in the area will cast even more. Your point about there being many more discoveries to be made in the world is spot on. Like Professor Watrall stated in our last class, discoveries are made every day. Even in sites that are heavily explored like the site in Mexico. Maybe ancient Greek ruins are on top of even more ancient ruins that hold glimpses of Neanderthals or humans and are just waiting to be found.

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