May 28, 2024

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Iranian, French archaeologists in search of Neanderthal traces

TEHRAN – A team of archaeologists from Iran and France has begun a joint project on a cave in Iran’s Qazvin province where evidence of Neanderthal life was previously found.

The fourth season of archaeological excavation has begun on Qal-e Kord Cave [which is situated in Avaj county] by experts from Iran and France, ILNA quoted archaeologist Hamed Vahdatinasab as saying on Wednesday.

“The French group is not present in Iran, and [field] excavation is carried out by the Iranian delegation and the laboratory work will be done jointly with French colleagues,” Vahdatinasab, who leads the excavations, said.

Qal-e Kord is considered the oldest human settlement in Iran according to preliminary archaeological results that indicate an age of more than 400,000 years based on deposits found there, he explained.

“That reflects the importance of the cave and our current survey, which is scheduled to continue until the end of Mordad (August 22),” Vahdatinasab said.

“Knowing that Qal-e Kord was inhabited by Neanderthals, we are seeking to obtain a chronology of these cave dwellers. We are also looking for animal remains and the foods they consumed… As we go down, we discover older layers.”

The archaeologist said stone tools obtained from this cave indicate that it was a residence of other humans who lived before Neanderthals; species such as the Heidelberg man or possibly a type of upright man.

Moreover, archaeologists have so far succeeded in identifying two types of extinct prehistoric horses, deer, brown bear, and rhinoceros in animal remains in this cave, he explained.

In November 2018, the first season of the joint Iran-France archeological exploration led to the discovery of over 6,000 cultural pieces in the area. It also yielded bone remains of horses, deer, bears, and many stone tools belonging to the Middle Paleolithic period (between 200,000 and 40,000 years ago).

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Human Evolution suggests that Neanderthals were roaming at the Iranian Zagros Mountain sometime between 40 to 70 thousand years ago.

Until the late 20th century, Neanderthals were regarded as genetically, morphologically, and behaviorally distinct from living humans. However, more recent discoveries about this well-preserved fossil Eurasian population have revealed an overlap between living and archaic humans.

Neanderthals lived before and during the last ice age of the Pleistocene in some of the most unforgiving environments ever inhabited by humans. They developed a successful culture, with a complex stone tool technology, that was based on hunting, with some scavenging and local plant collection. Their survival during tens of thousands of years of the last glaciation is a remarkable testament to human adaptation.


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