Neanderthal hunting camp found in southern Serbia

Neanderthal hunting camp found in southern Serbia
Neanderthal hunting camp found in southern Serbia

Serbian archaeologists have discovered a Neanderthal hunting camp in the Central Balkans. It was located in the Peshturina Cave and was used for the extraction and butchering of horses and red deer between 117 and 85 thousand years ago. The research results are presented in the journal Quaternary International.

In archeology, there is a shortage of well-studied and dated sites from the Middle Paleolithic era on a large part of the Balkan Peninsula. At the same time, this region, like other regions of Southern Europe, remained an important corridor for migration and, probably, during the deterioration of climatic conditions, acted as a refugium. One of the most famous archaeological sites in this region is Vindia Cave, located in Northern Croatia. Some of the latest Neanderthals lived here about 44 thousand years ago, and their remains served as the basis for a project to sequence the genome of these ancient people.

In the south of Serbia, not far from the town of Niska Banya, there is the Peshturina Cave, in which archaeological research has been conducted since 2006. In the cultural layers belonging to the Middle Paleolithic, scientists have discovered stone tools of the Mousterian culture. Moreover, in 2019, the remains of the Neanderthals themselves were found here for the first time in Serbia. It turned out to be the first molar, which is believed to be about 100 thousand years old.

Location of Neanderthal hunting camp at Peshturina Cave

Dusan Mihailovic, together with colleagues from the University of Belgrade, investigated one of the first sites of ancient people dating back to the Middle Paleolithic, which was discovered in the Central Balkans - the Peshturina cave in southern Serbia. Archaeologists have studied the fourth cultural layer of this monument, which is dated to the fifth marine isotope stage (133-74 thousand years ago).

The accumulation of most of the faunal remains found in the cave was due to hunting, and only in rare cases due to the natural death of animals that used this place as a den. Archaeologists noted that the main hunters at this site were Neanderthals and hyenas. Archaic people preferred to hunt large ungulates. Scientists found traces of cutting bones with tools on the remains of horses and red deer.

Archaeologists speculate that evidence of Neanderthals in the Peshturina Cave indicates its use as a temporary camp. Large ungulates caught in the surrounding open steppe or forest were processed in it. The study of faunal materials showed that the carcasses of horses were subjected to more intensive processing than red deer. This is probably due to the size of the animals and the distance to the place where they were hunted.

Stone tools discovered in the Peshturina cave

The discovered stone artifacts are consistent with the assumption that the investigated site was used for a short stay. The Neanderthals carried tools with them, and only low-quality quartz pebbles were used from local sources. The conducted uranium-thorium and thermoluminescent dating showed that ancient people stayed at this site during the marine isotope stage 5d-5b, that is, between 117 and 85 thousand years ago. During this period, apparently, the Neanderthals preferred to hunt in the pastures in the Nishava River basin, where there was a great variety and number of ungulates.

Earlier on N + 1 talked about other studies of an extinct human population. For example, paleoanthropologists discovered a milk tooth in Iran that belonged to a six-year-old Neanderthal child, and archaeologists found a Neanderthal hunting camp near Madrid.

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