In central Germany’s Ilsenhöhle cave, bone fragments are reshaping our understanding of early Homo sapiens in Europe. The 13 skeletal remains discovered in Ranis challenge the belief that Homo sapiens arrived in colder Europe over 45,000 years ago. The cave, situated in a cold steppe-tundra environment, housed small groups of hunter-gatherers who quickly adapted to the freezing conditions, coexisting with Ice Age animals like reindeer and woolly rhinoceroses. The discovered bones and tools provide insights into the LRJ culture, previously associated with Neanderthals but now connected to Homo sapiens.

Published in Nature and Nature Ecology & Evolution, the research suggests that early Homo sapiens from warmer Africa might have contributed to Neanderthal extinction around 40,000 years ago. The study proposes that these Homo sapiens adapted to the cold by hunting large animals. This discovery not only informs us about early Homo sapiens in Europe but also resolves the tool-making debate, confirming that Homo sapiens, not Neanderthals, crafted them. Further research is crucial to fully comprehending the impact of climate change and the arrival of Homo sapiens on Neanderthals in Europe.