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Ancient Bones Found Under Castle Offer New Clues to Evolution

Researchers exploring a cave beneath a medieval German castle have uncovered a treasure trove of ancient bones, unlocking secrets about the earliest humans. 

The findings, published in Nature and Nature Ecology & Evolution, shed light on early human activities, their tool-making skills, and their ability to thrive in frigid conditions.

DNA Analysis Reveals Early Humans

The remains, dating back 45,000 years, include genetic material from cave bears, hyenas, and 13 bones of early humans.

The discoveries challenge previous assumptions, revealing that early humans ventured farther north than initially thought and possessed the skills to craft sophisticated spear-shaped tools. The revelations were made possible by advancements in DNA technology, enabling scientists to study genetic material from the remains.

The cave, located beneath Ranis Castle in Germany’s Thuringia region, had been excavated in the 1920s and 1930s, but modern technology allowed researchers to revisit the site in 2016. 

Layers of collapsed cave soil revealed leaf points, similar to spear points, and human bone fragments. These findings prompted further examination of materials excavated nearly nine decades ago, uncovering additional skeleton fragments.

The 13 identified human bone fragments, confirmed through DNA analysis, offered insights into early human adaptability. 

Tests on nearby animal bones suggested harsh climatic conditions similar to modern-day Siberia. Despite these challenges, early humans demonstrated success in extreme climates, possibly outperforming Neanderthals.

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Neanderthal Attribution and Fuels Debates on Human Evolution

Researchers exploring a cave beneath a medieval German castle have uncovered a treasure trove of ancient bones, unlocking secrets about the earliest humans.

The discovery challenges previous attributions of leaf point technology to Neanderthals, suggesting that it was employed by early humans. 

Leaf points, and intricate stone tools resembling olive leaves, require a skilled crafting process, indicating a sophisticated social system and a population with sufficient time for non-survival activities.

The fate of Neanderthals remains a subject of debate, and the Ranis cave findings could contribute to unraveling this mystery. 

Complicated genetic testing is underway to determine if the recently discovered bone fragments contain traces of Neanderthal genes, shedding light on possible interactions between the two species.

The research not only deepens our understanding of early human history but also addresses broader questions about human evolution and the factors that shaped our species into what it is today. 

As scientists continue to explore the mysteries of our past, the Ranis cave provides valuable clues to unravel the complexities of our shared history with Neanderthals and the factors that led to the dominance of modern humans.

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