Transition from Neanderthals to Human species

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An archaeological dig in a cave in the Moravian region of the Czech Republic. And provided a timeline of evidence from 10 sedimentary layers spanning 28,000 to 50,000 years ago. This is the period when our modern human ancestors Neanderthals first arrived in Europe.

The dig, in a cave near the Czech border with Austria and around 150kms north of Vienna. Unearthed over 20,000 animal bones as well as stone tools. Weapons and an engraved bone bead that is the oldest of its kind in Central Europe.

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Archaeologists at The Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Sydney have provided a window into one of the most exciting periods in human history. The transition between Neanderthals and modern humans. ANU archaeologist Dr Duncan Wright said the project was so important because it gives some of the earliest evidence of modern human activity in the region. This was a period when humans were moving substantial distances and bringing with them portable art objects.

40-48,000 years ago people became highly mobile

Archaeologist Ladislav Nejman of the University of Sydney said one of the biggest questions. The beginnings of human exploration of this landscape by Homo sapiens who arrived in this area for the first time. They found that somewhere between 40-48,000 years ago people became highly mobile. Instead of moving short distances near the cave where they lived, they were walking for hundreds of kilometers quite often. We know that because we found various artefacts where the raw material comes from 100-200 kilometers away.

However, in layer 10, represents earlier time period between 48-45,000 years ago, all the recovered stone artefacts made using local raw material, which indicates that the high residential mobility came later. Samples from the site sent through for analysis using a new technique, called ancient sediment DNA analysis. This is the first scientific method that can detect which species were present even without the bones of these species. It tests remnant DNA preserved in the sediment.

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Dr Wright said the results will shed new light on a period of transition between two species of humans and also give clearer evidence about the activities of our modern human ancestors in a period and region where little is known.

The study was initially funded by a grant from SoMoPro program with a financial contribution from the European Community within the Seventh Framework Programme.