F Rosa Rubicondior: Creationism in Crisis - Neanderthals And Modern Humans Lived Together in Northern Europe 35,000 years Before 'Creation Week'

Friday 2 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - Neanderthals And Modern Humans Lived Together in Northern Europe 35,000 years Before 'Creation Week'

Neanderthals and humans lived side by side in Northern Europe 45,000 years ago | Berkeley

35 thousand years before creationism's god decided to create a small flat Earth centred on the Middle East and put a dome over it to keep the water above the sky out, anatomically modern humans were living alongside Neanderthals in Northern Europe.

The problem was that the Bronze Age people who wrote the creation myth, which they assumed all happened in their small part of the planet, were completely unaware of Northern Europe, the people living there, or that it had a history of a different species of humans living there for half a million years. If they had been, they might have invented a different tale to compensate for what they didn't know, but being human, and humans always want a story, they made one up with what little knowledge and understanding they had, and hardly surprisingly, got it spectacularly and laughably wrong, as we now know.

We know this because science is finding out what really happened and it's turning out to be nothing like the story the Bronze Age story-tellers made up.

That Neanderthals and modern humans met, co-existed and occasionally interbred has been known to science for some time now, but there was uncertainty about how long ago they first came into contact and where. Now a large team of archaeologists which included researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, have discovered evidence that they coexisted in Northern Europe, 45,000 years ago and lived together for several thousand years before Neanderthals became extinct.

The evidence of this is the finding of bone fragments which DNA analysis shows to be modern human DNA, dated to at least 40,000 years old, at a site in Germany at Ranis. Their finding also suggests that it was an invasion of Europe and Asian by modern humans that drove the Neanderthals to extinction, having lived in Europe for about 500,000 years. Although there is a school of thought that says Neanderthals, who existed in low population density, never became extinct so much as merged with the much larger population of modern humans. There is now probably more Neanderthal DNA in modern humans (who carry 1-3% Neanderthal DNA) then ever existed prior to the two species coming into contact.

The work of the team who made this discovery is the subject of three papers, two in Nature Ecology & Evolution and one in Nature. It is also the subject of an article by Robert Sanders in Berkely News:
Genetic analysis of bone fragments from German archaeological site proves that modern humans reached northern Europe not long after they emerged from Africa
A human bone fragment from the new excavations at Ranis. UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Elena Zavala analyzed DNA from numerous bone fragments found at Ranis and discovered that many were from modern humans, Homo sapiens.
© Tim Schüler TLDA, License: CC-BY-ND.
A genetic analysis of bone fragments unearthed at an archaeological site in central Germany shows conclusively that modern humans — Homo sapiens — had already reached Northern Europe 45,000 years ago, overlapping with Neanderthals for several thousand years before the latter went extinct.

The findings establish that the site near Ranis, Germany, which is known for its finely flaked, leaf-shaped stone tool blades, is among the oldest confirmed sites of modern human Stone Age culture in north central and northwestern Europe.

The evidence that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis lived side by side is consistent with genomic evidence that the two species occasionally interbred. It also feeds the suspicion that the invasion of Europe and Asia by modern humans some 50,000 years ago helped drive Neanderthals, which had occupied the area for more than 500,000 years, to extinction.

The genetic analysis, along with an archaeological and isotopic analysis and radiocarbon dating of the Ranis site, are detailed in a trio of papers appearing today in the journals Nature and Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Stone tools from the Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician technocomplex at Ranis. The partial bifacial blade point (left) is characteristic of the stone tools produced by hominids, now identified as modern humans, who occupied the Ranis cave. Stone tools like this are found at several sites across northwestern Europe, though excavations at Ranis in the 1930s also uncovered finely made bifacial leaf points (right) made by the same cultural group.

© Josephine Schubert, Museum Burg Ranis,
License: CC-BY-ND 4.0
The stone blades at Ranis, referred to as leaf points, are similar to stone tools found at several sites in Moravia, Poland, Germany and the United Kingdom. These tools that are thought to have been produced by the same culture, referred to as the Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician (LRJ) culture or technocomplex. Because of previous dating, the Ranis site was known to be 40,000 years old or older, but without recognizable bones to indicate who made the tools, it was unclear whether they were the product of Neanderthals or Homo sapiens.

[The new findings demonstrate that] Homo sapiens made this technology, and that Homo sapiens were this far north at this time period, which is 45,000 years ago, so these are among the earliest Homo sapiens in Europe.

Dr. Elena Zavala, co-first author of the Nature paper
Co-author of the papers in Nature Ecology & Evolution
Miller Research Fellow
University of California, Berkeley, CA,

Zavala was a Ph.D. student at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) in Leipzig in 2018 when she first began working on the project, which was a major effort spearheaded by Jean-Jacque Hublin, former director of the institute and a professor at the Collège de France in Paris.

The Ranis cave site provides evidence for the first dispersal of Homo sapiens across the higher latitudes of Europe. It turns out that stone artifacts that were thought to be produced by Neanderthals were, in fact, part of the early Homo sapiens toolkit. This fundamentally changes our previous knowledge about the period: Homo sapiens reached northwestern Europe long before Neanderthal disappearance in southwestern Europe.

Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin, corresponding author (of the Paper in Nature)
Chair of Paleoanthropology
Collège de France, Paris, France
And Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

Bones from maternal relatives?

Zavala conducted the genetic analysis of hominid bone fragments from the new and deeper excavations at Ranis between 2016 and 2022 and from earlier excavations in the 1930s. Because the DNA in ancient bones is highly fragmented, she employed special techniques to isolate and sequence the DNA, all of it mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that is inherited solely from the mother.

Zavala in the garb she wore so as not to contaminate 45,000-year-old bone she was analyzing for evidence of DNA. She is shown in a clean room at the MPI-EVA with an automated pipetting robot used to process the sediment and skeletal samples from the Ranis excavation.

Mateja Hajdinjak

We confirmed that the skeletal fragments belonged to Homo sapiens. Interestingly, several fragments shared the same mitochondrial DNA sequences — even fragments from different excavations. This indicates that the fragments belonged to the same individual or their maternal relatives, linking these new finds with the ones from decades ago.

Dr. Elena Zavala.

The bone fragments were initially identified as human through analysis of bone proteins — a field called paleoproteomics — by another first author, Dorothea Mylopotamitaki, a doctoral student at the Collège de France and formerly of MPI-EVA.

By comparing the Ranis mitochondrial DNA sequences with mtDNA sequences obtained from human remains at other paleolithic sites in Europe, Zavala was able to construct a family tree of early Homo sapiens across Europe. All but one of the 13 Ranis fragments were quite similar to one another and, surprisingly, resembled mtDNA from the 43,000-year-old skull of a woman discovered in a cave at Zlatý kůň in the Czech Republic. The lone standout grouped with an individual from Italy.

That raises some questions: Was this a single population? What could be the relationship here? But with mitochondrial DNA, that's only one side of the history. It's only the maternal side. We would need to have nuclear DNA to be able to start looking into this.

Dr. Elena Zavala.

A transitional site between Middle and Upper Paleolithic

Zavala specializes in the analysis of DNA found in long-buried bones, on bone tools and in sediment. Her search through sediment from various levels of the Ranis excavation turned up DNA from a broad array of mammals, but none from hominids. The analysis, combined with morphological, isotopic and proteomic analysis of bone fragments, paints a picture of the environment at that time and of the diet of both humans and animals that occupied the cave over the millennia.

The cave site Ilsenhöhle beneath the castle of Ranis. The cave was first excavated more than 90 years ago, and re-excavated between 2016 and 2022.
© Tim Schüler TLDA, License: CC-BY-ND 4.0
The presence of reindeer, cave bear, woolly rhinoceros and horse bones, for example, indicated cold climatic conditions typical of steppe tundra and similar to conditions in Siberia and northern Scandinavia today, and a human diet based on large terrestrial animals. The researchers concluded that the cave was used primarily by hibernating cave bears and denning hyenas, with only periodic human presence.

This shows that even these earlier groups of Homo sapiens dispersing across Eurasia already had some capacity to adapt to such harsh climatic conditions. Until recently, it was thought that resilience to cold-climate conditions did not appear until several thousand years later, so this is a fascinating and surprising result.

Dr Sarah Pederzani, co-author (or the Nature paper)
Archaeological Micromorphology and Biomarker Lab
University of La Laguna, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Spain. And Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
“This lower-density archaeological signature matches other Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician sites and is best explained by expedient visits of short duration by small, mobile groups of pioneer H. sapiens,” according to one of the papers published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The Ranis site, called Ilsenhöhle and located at the base of a castle, was initially excavated mainly between 1932 and 1938. The leaf points found there were eventually assigned to the final years of the Middle Paleolithic period — between about 300,000 and 30,000 years ago — or the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, which begins around 50,000 years ago.

Because of the importance of the Ranis site for understanding the LRJ technocomplex and the transition from the Neanderthal-associated late Middle Paleolithic to the modern human Upper Paleolithic in central Europe, Hublin and his team decided to reexcavate the site using modern tools of archaeology.

The new excavations extended to bedrock, about 8 meters below the surface, and involved removing a rock — likely fallen from the cave ceiling — that had halted the previous excavation. Here, Hublin's team uncovered chips from flint tools and a quartzite flake consistent with the LRJ technocomplex. Subsequent proteomic analysis of thousands of recovered bone chips confirmed that four were from hominids. Of bone chips uncovered during the 1930s excavations, nine were from hominids.

Zavala's DNA analysis confirmed that all 13 bone fragments came from Homo sapiens.

Revised settlement history of Northern Europe.

The team also carried out radiocarbon dating of human and animal bones from different layers of the site to reconstruct the site’s chronology, focusing on bones with traces of human modifications on their surfaces, which links their dates to human presence in the cave.
Workers at the bottom of the 8-meter-deep trench excavated at Ranis, Germany, to recover evidence of hominids dwelling in the area 45,000 years ago.
© Marcel Weiss, License: CC-BY-ND 4.0

We found very good agreement between the radiocarbon dates from the Homo sapiens bones from both excavation collections and with modified animal bones from the LRJ layers of the new excavation, making a very strong link between the human remains and LRJ. The evidence suggests that Homo sapiens were sporadically occupying the site from as early as 47,500 years ago.

Dr. Helen Fewlass, co-first author (of the Nature paper)
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
And Ancient Genomics Lab
Francis Crick Institute, London, UK.

The results from the Ilsenhöhle in Ranis fundamentally changed our ideas about the chronology and settlement history of Europe north of the Alps.

Tim Schüler, co-author (of the Nature paper)
Thuringian State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and Archaeology
Weimar, Germany.

Among other co-authors of the Nature paper are co-first author Marcel Weiss of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg and Shannon McPherron of MPI-EVA, who co-led the Ranis excavation with Hublin, Schüler and Weiss. Zavala, in addition to being co-first author of the Nature paper, co-authored the two papers in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
For those creationists who are about to parrot "Radioisotope dating is flawed!", it’s worth pointing out that the team also use δ13C and δ15N values to cross check the 14 dating:

Here is how they work:
How are δ13C and δ15N values used to age palaeological specimens? Stable isotopes, such as δ13C (delta carbon-13) and δ15N (delta nitrogen-15), can be used in the field of paleoecology and archaeology to provide valuable information about the diet and trophic levels of ancient organisms. While these isotopes themselves do not directly provide age information, they can be used in conjunction with other methods to gain insights into the age and ecology of paleontological or archaeological specimens. Here's how:
  1. Isotopic Fractionation:
    • Carbon Isotopes (δ13C): The ratio of 13C to 12C in the environment can vary, and this ratio is reflected in the tissues of organisms. Changes in the atmospheric carbon signature over time can be recorded in the tissues of plants and animals. Analyzing the δ13C values in a specimen can provide information about the types of plants it consumed or the environment in which it lived.
    • Nitrogen Isotopes (δ15N): The δ15N values can indicate the trophic level of an organism. Higher δ15N values are typically associated with higher trophic levels. By examining the δ15N values in the tissues of an organism, researchers can infer its position in the food chain.
  2. Comparison with Isotope Baselines:
    • Researchers compare the isotopic values of the specimens with known isotope baselines for specific time periods. This involves establishing the isotopic composition of the environment during different historical periods. By comparing the isotopic signature of a specimen with these baselines, researchers can estimate the time period in which it lived.
  3. Temporal Changes in Isotope Signatures:
    • Over time, the isotopic composition of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans can change due to various factors such as climate change, anthropogenic activities, and alterations in the carbon cycle. By examining how isotopic values change over time, researchers can infer the age of a specimen or the time period during which certain environmental conditions prevailed.
  4. Integration with other Dating Methods:
    • Isotopic data can be integrated with other dating methods, such as radiocarbon dating, to refine age estimates. Radiocarbon dating provides absolute age information, while stable isotopes offer ecological insights. Combining these methods allows researchers to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the specimen's history.
In summary, while δ13C and δ15N values themselves do not provide direct age information, they offer valuable insights into the ecology, diet, and trophic relationships of ancient organisms. By comparing isotopic data with established baselines and integrating it with other dating methods, researchers can infer the age and environmental context of paleontological and archaeological specimens.

Does δ indicate change of?

Yes, the symbol "δ" (delta) in the context of stable isotopes, such as δ13C and δ15N, indicates a change or deviation from a standard or reference value. It is used to express the relative difference in the isotopic composition of a sample compared to a known standard.

The formula for calculating δ values is:
\[ δX = \left( \frac{(R_{\text{sample}} / R_{\text{standard}}) - 1}{1} \right) \times 1000 \]
Where: - \( δX \) is the delta value for the isotope \( X \) (e.g., δ13C or δ15N).

- \( R_{\text{sample}} \) is the ratio of the heavy isotope to the light isotope in the sample.

- \( R_{\text{standard}} \) is the ratio of the heavy isotope to the light isotope in the standard or reference material.

The resulting δ value represents the per mil (‰) difference between the sample and the standard. Positive δ values indicate enrichment in the heavy isotope compared to the standard, while negative values indicate depletion.

In the context of stable isotopes and paleoecology, researchers use δ values to compare and analyze isotopic compositions in biological tissues or environmental samples, providing information about dietary habits, trophic levels, and environmental conditions. The use of δ values allows scientists to quantify and express isotopic variations relative to a chosen standard, facilitating the interpretation of isotopic data.
In their open access Nature paper, the team say:

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe is associated with the regional disappearance of Neanderthals and the spread of Homo sapiens. Late Neanderthals persisted in western Europe several millennia after the occurrence of H. sapiens in eastern Europe1. Local hybridization between the two groups occurred2, but not on all occasions3. Archaeological evidence also indicates the presence of several technocomplexes during this transition, complicating our understanding and the association of behavioural adaptations with specific hominin groups4. One such technocomplex for which the makers are unknown is the Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician (LRJ), which has been described in northwestern and central Europe5,6,7,8. Here we present the morphological and proteomic taxonomic identification, mitochondrial DNA analysis and direct radiocarbon dating of human remains directly associated with an LRJ assemblage at the site Ilsenhöhle in Ranis (Germany). These human remains are among the earliest directly dated Upper Palaeolithic H. sapiens remains in Eurasia. We show that early H. sapiens associated with the LRJ were present in central and northwestern Europe long before the extinction of late Neanderthals in southwestern Europe. Our results strengthen the notion of a patchwork of distinct human populations and technocomplexes present in Europe during this transitional period.

The other two open access papers by broadly similar teams, also give more technical details:

The spread of Homo sapiens into new habitats across Eurasia ~45,000 years ago and the concurrent disappearance of Neanderthals represents a critical evolutionary turnover in our species’ history. ‘Transitional’ technocomplexes, such as the Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician (LRJ), characterize the European record during this period but their makers and evolutionary significance have long remained unclear. New evidence from Ilsenhöhle in Ranis, Germany, now provides a secure connection of the LRJ to H. sapiens remains dated to ~45,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest forays of our species to central Europe. Using many stable isotope records of climate produced from 16 serially sampled equid teeth spanning ~12,500 years of LRJ and Upper Palaeolithic human occupation at Ranis, we review the ability of early humans to adapt to different climate and habitat conditions. Results show that cold climates prevailed across LRJ occupations, with a temperature decrease culminating in a pronounced cold excursion at ~45,000–43,000 cal BP. Directly dated H. sapiens remains confirm that humans used the site even during this very cold phase. Together with recent evidence from the Initial Upper Palaeolithic, this demonstrates that humans operated in severe cold conditions during many distinct early dispersals into Europe and suggests pronounced adaptability.


Recent excavations at Ranis (Germany) identified an early dispersal of Homo sapiens into the higher latitudes of Europe by 45,000 years ago. Here we integrate results from zooarchaeology, palaeoproteomics, sediment DNA and stable isotopes to characterize the ecology, subsistence and diet of these early H. sapiens. We assessed all bone remains (n = 1,754) from the 2016–2022 excavations through morphology (n = 1,218) or palaeoproteomics (zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (n = 536) and species by proteome investigation (n = 212)). Dominant taxa include reindeer, cave bear, woolly rhinoceros and horse, indicating cold climatic conditions. Numerous carnivore modifications, alongside sparse cut-marked and burnt bones, illustrate a predominant use of the site by hibernating cave bears and denning hyaenas, coupled with a fluctuating human presence. Faunal diversity and high carnivore input were further supported by ancient mammalian DNA recovered from 26 sediment samples. Bulk collagen carbon and nitrogen stable isotope data from 52 animal and 10 human remains confirm a cold steppe/tundra setting and indicate a homogenous human diet based on large terrestrial mammals. This lower-density archaeological signature matches other Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician sites and is best explained by expedient visits of short duration by small, mobile groups of pioneer H. sapiens.
a, Geographic location of Ranis and the main LRJ sites, b, plan of the 2016–2022 excavations and c, stratigraphic sequence of the cave Ilsenhöhle at Ranis. Orange dots in b and c mark the layers and squares that were sampled for sedaDNA. R denotes rockfall events. See Mylopotamitaki et al.7.1 for the description of the sedimentary and chronological framework. In a, the location of main LRJ sites (1–7 and 9–15, adapted from Hussain et al60; 8, Aldhouse-Green114; 16–17, Demidenko and Škrdla23). Triangles mark sites with well-contextualized fauna. 1, Ranis; 2, Schmähingen-Kirchberghöhle; 3, Bench Quarry; 4, Kent’s Cavern; 5, Soldier’s Hole; 6, Hyena Den; 7, Badger Hole; 8, Paviland Cave; 9, Robin Hood’s Cave; 10, Grange Farm; 11, Beedings; 12, Spy; 13, Goyet; 14, Nietoperzowa Cave; 15, Koziarnia Green Cave; 16, Líšeň Podolí I; 17, Želešice III. The map was created in QGIS based on Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data V4 (http://srtm.csi.cgiar.org)116. In b, Each numbered square is 1 m2. The basal sequence including the LRJ layers was excavated in the red area of squares 1003/999, 1003/1000, 1004/999 and 1004/1000. Panels a and b were created with Affinity Designer version
With the radiometric dating cross referenced with other reference values which place the living organisms in particular temporal and environmental locations, creationists will need to be especially inventive in how they go about misrepresenting the science or vilifying the scientists to maintain their childlike, counterfactual belief in an Earth that didn't exist when these human and animals lived in Northern Europe, 35,000 years before 'Creation Week'.


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