Croatia’s scenic Vindija Cave was thought to be a potential trysting site for Neandertals and early modern humans some 32,000 years ago. Now, a new study questions that idea, using a more exacting form of radiocarbon dating to suggest instead that Neandertals used the cave 40,000 years ago—some 8000 years before modern humans lived in that part of Europe. If true, the find casts doubt on the long-held assumption by some that the two hominids overlapped in the region.
“Many of us have long suspected [this],” writes Erik Trinkaus, a biological anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis who wasn’t involved in the work, in an email. He points out that the dating of sites across Europe have generally put the Neandertal’s demise there about 40,000 years ago. “This article puts to rest an anomalous occurrence of late Neandertals in this region, and allows us to move on from it.”