Bone fragments discovered in Ilsenhöhle cave, central Germany, are reshaping early Homo sapiens history in Europe. Unearthed by scientists in Ranis, the finding includes 13 skeletal remains dating back up to 47,500 years, challenging the belief that Homo sapiens settled in Europe’s colder regions over 45,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. The cave, in a chilly steppe-tundra setting, occasionally housed small groups of hunter-gatherers who quickly adapted to frigid conditions, living alongside Ice Age mammals like reindeer and woolly rhinoceroses. The discovered bones and stone artifacts offer insights into the LRJ culture, previously thought to belong to Neanderthals but now connected to Homo sapiens.

Published in Nature and Nature Ecology & Evolution, the research proposes that early Homo sapiens, originating from warmer Africa, may have played a role in Neanderthal extinction around 40,000 years ago. The study suggests that these Homo sapiens adeptly adapted to the cold environment, engaging in hunting large mammals in the region. This discovery not only sheds light on early Homo sapiens’ movements in Europe but also resolves the debate over the origin of specific stone artifacts, indicating their crafting by Homo sapiens rather than Neanderthals. Further investigation is crucial to understanding the full impact of climate change and Homo sapiens’ arrival on Neanderthal extinction in Europe.