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Anthropologist finds that Neanderthals had organized living spaces

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Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver, presented the first known evidence that Neanderthals had a highly developed system of organization for their living spaces in the Dec. 3, 2013, issue of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology.

The scientist’s conclusions are based on excavations at Riparo Bombrini, a collapsed rock shelter in northwest Italy. Both human and Neanderthals lived in the region for several thousand years.

The portion of the site that is known to have been the residence of Neanderthals was divided into three levels. Each level of the site was organized based on a primary task Neanderthals were active in.

The upper level was segregated for hunting and preparation of game. The evidence of bones from a multitude of animals that date to the Neanderthal period placed in the back of this part of the cave dwelling as well as the presence of ocher use indicates this was a game preparation room. Ocher has been found in several other Neanderthal sites and was used by Neanderthals in tanning hides, as an adhesive, and may have had a ceremonial function.

Theecond level was reserved for living space and tool making. A stone hearth was found a sbout three feet from the cave wall at the back of this level of the cave. Bone fragments and the remains of stone tools and indications of stone tool making were deposited in the front of this level. The researchers propose that this arrangement maximized the distribution of heat and minimized the potential for injury from tool making.

The third level is considered to be a temporary residence area. This level contained some tool fragments and remnants of oyster shells. The oyster shells indicate Neanderthals were advanced enough to have developed a seafood technology.

The overall analysis of the Riparo Bombrini site indicates that Neanderthals were much more advanced in organizational capability than has been determined previously.

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