In a recent discovery, bone fragments found in a cave in central Germany are rewriting the early history of Homo sapiens in Europe. Scientists uncovered 13 Homo sapiens skeletal remains in the Ilsenhöhle cave in the town of Ranis, dating back up to 47,500 years. This finding challenges previous knowledge, revealing that Homo sapiens arrived in Europe’s colder regions over 45,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. The cave, located in a chilly steppe-tundra setting, was sporadically used by small groups of hunter-gatherers who adapted quickly to frigid conditions, coexisting with Ice Age mammals like reindeer and woolly rhinoceroses. The bones and stone artifacts discovered in the cave also shed light on a debated culture called LRJ, previously attributed to Neanderthals but now linked to Homo sapiens.

The research presented in Nature and Nature Ecology & Evolution indicates that early Homo sapiens may have played a role in the extinction of Neanderthals, who disappeared around 40,000 years ago. The study suggests that these Homo sapiens, originating from warmer Africa, adapted swiftly to the cold environment and hunted large mammals in the region. This discovery not only provides insights into the early movements of Homo sapiens in Europe but also resolves the debate over the origin of certain stone artifacts, suggesting that they were crafted by Homo sapiens rather than Neanderthals. Further investigation is needed to understand the full impact of climate change and Homo sapiens’ arrival on the Neanderthal extinction in Europe.