ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been a debate for hundreds of years, now, one New Mexico archaeologist has made a discovery that gives new insight into when Neanderthals went extinct.

The Picareiro Cave in Portugal has been an archeological hot spot for 25 years and a recent discovery by a Univesrity of New Mexico Ph.D. candidate Milena Carvalho gives new insight into the lives and extinction of Neanderthals. “Our research kind of throws a wrench into all these different ideas, it’s overturned a lot of ideas about what people thought happened,” Carvalho says.

Carvalho says researchers often use stone tools to learn about certain types of humans and their ancestors. “In this case what we ended up finding were stone tools that are particular to mostly [sic] modern humans in Europe they hadn’t been associated with modern humans in Portugal yet,” Carvalho says.

Carvalho says the tools they found proves the modern human presence was in Portugal 5,000 years earlier than once thought. Meaning, Neanderthals and modern humans could have lived at the same time. “Whether modern humans and Neanderthals inbreed they were genetically swamped and got mixed in with modern humans, so there were no true Neanderthals left. Was it competition modern humans, just came in and they were better at hunting better at exploiting their landscape and surviving?” Carvalho said.

Carvalho they are still working to pinpoint the last presence of Neanderthals and the first presence of modern humans. “The plan is to keep going back and keep excavating; we still need to find more,” Carvalho says. Carvalho says they spend about four to six weeks excavating the cave each year.

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