Before Farming

On the new dates for Gorham's Cave and the late survival of Iberian Neanderthals

Before Farming (2006), 2006, (3), 1–9.

Abstract

On the basis of radiocarbon dates recently obtained for a trench in the back part of Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, it has been claimed that Neanderthals survived in the region until at least 28,000 and probably as late as 24,000 radiocarbon years ago (Finlayson et al 2006). The stratigraphic and archaeological context of these results, however, does not warrant such an interpretation, because of the microscopic nature of the dated samples, the wide scatter in the dates obtained, and the lack of any correlation between age and stratigraphic depth. An Early Upper Palaeolithic occupation of the site was documented by Waechter's 1950s excavations (Waechter 1951), and the younger among the new series of results are likely to relate to such an occupation. We conclude that the most parsimonious reading of the evidence is that of a Middle Palaeolithic occupation of Gorham's until, but not beyond, ca 32-30,000 radiocarbon years ago.

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Author details

Zilhão, Joao

Pettitt, Paul