Archaeologists spotted some of the oldest Neanderthal DNA found in Europe

For tens of thousands of years, a Neanderthal molar rested in a shallow grave on the floor of Stajia Cave in Poland. Until that time, viable mitochondrial DNA remained locked inside – and now, finally, scientists are discovering its secrets.

According to the new analysis, the tooth named Stagenia S5000 was of Neanderthal, which was alive at least 80,000 years ago. This means that the person was alive during a personal time of environmental upheaval in Neanderthal history.

The landscape of Middle-Eastern Europe changed quite dramatically in the Middle Palaeolithic period, about 100,000 years ago.

The world was due to the eventual recession of the Ice Age, and the Neanderthal habitats of northwestern and central Europe changed from wealthy forests to Tagari Taipei and Steppees. These were adapted to chilly Arctic conditions to welcome woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, and reindeer – but much more challenging for Neanderthals.

A digital model of the Stajnia S5000. (Stefano Benzizzi)

Due to freezing areas, Neanderthal populations shrunk, only to return as temperatures warmed back, in a temporary acidification of the glacier (the actual ice age would not end until about 11,700 years ago), extreme seasonal changes, and less Characterized by biomass. . In other words, the seasons were wild, and food was scarce.

It was during one of these periods – known as the marine isotope stage 5a (MIS 5a), which began about 82,000 years ago – that Altai Neanderthal in Central Asia was populated by western European Neanderthal populations. Was replaced.

But, even as many European Neanderthals fled to more temperate environments, a particular type of tool style was classified as being in use in frozen environments in the eastern region of Micoquian, now in France, Poland and Is Caucasus – suggesting that some Neanderthals were able to adapt to their changing world.

“Poland is located at the crossroads between the Western European plains and the Urals,” said Andrea Pikin, an archaeologist and Max Planck Institute, a major area for understanding these escapes and solving questions about the Neanderthal fauna. ” Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

Micoquian devices first began to appear in Central and Eastern Europe around 130,000 years ago – before the European Neanderthals replaced the Central Asian population.

These artefacts – some found in the Stajnia Cave – are characterized by bifacial shaping, asymmetrical shape and leaf shape, and are found only in areas where woolly mammoths and woolly rhinestones rotate, suggesting That they were specially adapted for hunting and castration. In such a scenario.

micoquianMicoquian Instruments from Stajnia Cave. (Andrea Pikin)

There are some other clues that suggest a changing survival strategy. Researchers believe that the cave is useful as a permanent settlement. However, groups of Neanderthals could use it as a temporary camp during the voyage.

And there is only tooth. Its shape corresponds to Neanderthal teeth, and wear reveals an adult tooth. Genetic analysis of the soft tissue preserved inside the protective outer shell of hard enamel was particularly revealing.

First, it allowed archaeologists to date the tooth, placing it squarely in MIS 5a.

“We were thrilled when genetic analysis revealed that the tooth was at least ~ 80,000 years old,” said archaeologist Voyletta Nowakzuska of the University of Wrocław and Adam Nadakowski of the Polish Academy of Science. “Fossils of this age are very difficult to find and usually, DNA is not well preserved.”

And secondly, it allowed them to locate the nearest relatives of the tooth owner.

“We found that the mitochondrial genus of Stagenia S5000 was closest to a Mezamiscaya 1 Neanderthal in the Caucasus,” said archaeologist Mateja Hejdinjac of the Mexican Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. And DNA was more surprisingly related to two other Neanderthals who died in Belgium and Germany some 120,000 years ago.

With the devices, which have been found at several major sites including the North Caucasus, Germany, Altai and Crimea, Teeth suggests that Neanderthals from northern and eastern Europe became more migratory, chasing migratory Arctic animals as the continent. New survival strategy.

This would explain, the researchers said, just how Micoquian devices were so widespread, and how they remained in continuous use in these areas for more than 50,000 years.

“The Stagenia S5000 molar is indeed an extraordinary discovery that sheds light on the debate over the widespread distribution of microcian artifacts,” Pickin said.

The research has been published in Scientific report.