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Did Neanderthals share caves with carnivores?

A research team from IPHES (Catalan Institute of Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution) and URV (Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona) have been excavating the remains of Neanderthal camps in the Cave of Llenes located in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in Catalonia.

Did Neanderthals share caves with carnivores?
Digging in the Cave of Llenes 
[Credit: IPHES]
The results of this campaign have been very positive and they make it possible to understand the dynamics of Neanderthal population movements in the medium and high mountainous regions of the Pyrenees during the Pleistocene Epoch some 200,000 years ago.

The excavations have revealed that Neanderthal groups regularly visited the cave, probably to hunt  animals that lived in the vicinity such as the Bonal tahr (Hemitragus Bonal), a species of wild sheep which became extinct in western Europe 100,000 years ago. Along with these animals the researchers have also found traces of other ungulates including deer, uros, rhinos and megaloceros (a giant deer species now extinct).

Did Neanderthals share caves with carnivores?
One of the tools attributed to Neanderthals discovered 
during the campaign [Credit: IPHES]
The Neanderthal camps were located mainly in the entrance of the cave's cavity as the abundant presence of lithic tools - levallois points and discoid scrapers - crafted from stones collected on the banks of the Flamisell River indicates.

However, the natural dynamics of the cave seems to be related to burrows of carnivores, mainly hyenas and leopards, although fossils of wolves, foxes and badgers have also been found. But the main protagonist is the cave bear, as evidenced by the large number of remains of this animal recovered from the cave floor, along with scratches on the walls and hibernation nests.

The project will help scientists locate other sites in the Gorge of ErinyĆ  and hopefully provide a better understanding of Neanderthal behaviour and their relationships with large carnivores and other animals with which they coexisted.

For more information visit The cave of Les Llenes website.

Source: IPHES [April 21, 2015]

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