Modern Humans Reached West Coast of Europe 5,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought

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Roughly 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals near the Atlantic Coast of what is now central Portugal likely foraged for food, used stone tools and welcomed their new neighbors with some curiosity — moder…
View of Lapa do Picareiro looking in from the entrance. (Courtesy of Jonathan Haws)

(CN) — Roughly 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals near the Atlantic Coast of what is now central Portugal likely foraged for food, used stone tools and welcomed their new neighbors with some curiosity — modern humans.

A study published Monday says modern humans could have arrived on the westernmost part of the European continent about 5,000 years earlier than previously estimated.

This would have put them in the same region as the now-extinct Neanderthal about 41,000 to 38,000 years ago, according to findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By that time the Neanderthal occupation would have been gone. But evidence points to a possible overlap where the two groups existed in the same region around the same time.

Researchers say they found tools in Lapa Do Picareiro, a cave in central Portugal, which is host to one of the largest Paleolithic caches of bones. The study group was made up of an international team, including anthropology professor Jonathan Haws from the University of Louisville.

It takes a steep climb up a rocky and dusty mountain trail covered in aromatic herbs and shrubs with a view of mountains sprinkled with olive trees, wind turbines and small towns.

The findings in Portugal match those in the Bajondillo Cave located in Málaga, Spain, where other researchers came to a similar conclusion that modern humans replaced Neanderthals about 44,000 years ago.

Researchers have been excavating Lapa Do Picareiro for more than two decades and have been able to peel…
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