Mysterious ring-shaped structures have been discovered deep
inside a cave in southwestern France, and are believed to have been made by
Neanderthals around 176,000 years ago using broken stalagmites.
Six rock structures were discovered by scientists on
Wednesday some 1100 feet down into the Bruniquel cave in the Aveyron region of
The structures were attributed to the Neanderthals by
scientists, as they were a species thriving in Europe at the time. Homo sapiens
first emerged around 200,000 years ago in Africa, but didnt take over the
Neanderthals as the only human species in Europe until around 40,000 years ago.
The structures are the oldest known constructions by a human species, and
indicate that our closest extinct relatives were more adept and able than first
Paleoclimatologist Dominic Genty, of Frances Climate and
Environment Sciences Laboratory, emphasised the importance of the discovery,
saying they moved more than two tons of broken stalagmites.
The purpose of the structures still remains very much a
mystery, with Genty saying it could be for a specific domestic use or cultural
one. Professor of prehistory at the University of Bordeaux, Jacques Jaubert,
added that the site was probably not used for living or cooking, due to the
fact that it was so far from daylight.
Jaubert also said that while there were examples of other
structures made by the Neanderthals such as rock workshops and hearths, there
have never been structures of this magnitude, and in this deep cave context.
He said: This is the work of a group of at least three to
four people, and possibly more. All this indicates a structured society.
Building the structures, he added, would have involved complex processes such
as deciding upon leaders and who would carry out each task, keeping the dark
area lit for long periods and manufacturing construction material.
While the cave is not
open to the public, the nearby Lascaux caves near Bordeaux, with their world
famous cave paintings, are open in a new exhibition of true-to-life replicas.
Take a visit to prehistoric Europe before the high season kicks in and book one
of our last minute villas in France today.
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