Rare constructions found in a French cave demonstrate that Neanderthals had more skills than expected. The structures were built around 176,000 years ago using broken stalagmites. A report with details about the peculiar place was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Scientists reported six rock structures found earlier this week. The structures were located 1,100 feet inside Bruniquel Cave in Aveyron, a region in southern France. The rocks were reportedly shaped by Neanderthals, who populated European lands by that time, said the report published on Wednesday.
The structures are composed by parts of broken stalagmites, which are formations of minerals deposited from water that trickles into a cave floor. One of the ring-shaped structure measures 22-by-15 feet. The six pieces show signs of having been in contact with fire.
“They moved more than two tons of broken stalagmites. It could be for a specific domestic use or cultural one,” said paleoclimatologist Dominique Genty of France’s Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory.
The purpose of the structures remains unknown. Jacques Jaubert told Reuters the cave was not a place to live or cook, because it is located too far from daylight. Jaubert is a professor of prehistory at the University of Bordeaux
Ancient ring-like structures found in a cave in France were probably built by Neanderthals, suggests a study https://t.co/k1rXE0nBoT
— nature (@nature) May 25, 2016
The formations demonstrate that Neanderthals were probably a structured society
New findings demonstrate that Neanderthals were more skilled than previously known. Several theories propose the species of humans were able to hunt with complex methods. They also used pigments for body painting. And interestingly enough, the even conducted burials, said Reuters.
Professor Jaubert told in the interview that Neanderthals have been recognized for building rock workshops and hearths. “Structures of this magnitude” located deep inside a cave had never been found before, he said.
The stalagmite compositions are one of the oldest constructions ever built by humans, said Reuters. Their construction might have required community leaders, mobilization of materials and lightning fire, according to jaubert.
A theory proposes that structures are the product of at least four people, who probably burned bones for obtaining light during long periods. Professor Jaubert said that such a work is the demonstration of a “structured society”.
Neanderthals keep surprising us
The old formations were discovered in the 1900s by local cavers, said The Guardian. By that time, researchers thought the stalagmites were 50,000 years old. Stalagmite tips and bone traces found there date to 175,000 years ago, according to new tests.
Neanderthals died in Eurasia when modern humans populated that region. Formations into the cave remain almost intact, because the stalagmites are protected by calcium carbonate, said The Guardian. Scientists find the cave fascinating, since they cannot explain how the species were able to enter so deep into its interior. Marie Soressi, an archaeologist at Leiden University said that new questions have arisen.
Soressi wonders if the structures were built as a common practice of the ancient species or if they were built accidentally. If the first theory turns out to be real, there would not be “so much of a jump” between Neanderthals and contemporaneous humans. “This is very strange behaviour” she told The Guardian.
— Neanderthal News (@NeanderthalNews) May 26, 2016