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Homo sapiens already reached northwest Europe more than 45,000 years ago

The arrival of Homo sapiens in cold northern latitudes took place several thousand years before Neanderthals disappeared in southwest Europe

An international research team reports the discovery of Homo sapiens fossils from the cave site Ilsenhöhle in Ranis, Germany. Directly dated to approximately 45,000 years ago, these fossils are associated with elongated stone points partly shaped on both sides (known as partial bifacial blade points), which are characteristic of the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ). This archaeological technocomplex is temporally situated between the Neanderthal-associated Middle Palaeolithic and the Upper Palaeolithic made by H. sapiens. Further, at Ranis, the LRJ also contains bifacial leaf points, which are fully worked across both sides, and have been interpreted, by some researchers as evidence for a link with local Neanderthals. The new discoveries now document the earliest known H. sapiens fossils in Central and NW Europe and reveal for the first time the makers of the LRJ. The partial bifacial blade points found at Ranis – one of the main type-sites of the LRJ – have also been discovered at other localities across Europe, from Moravia and eastern Poland across to the British Isles, and can now be linked to an early arrival of small groups of Homo sapiens in NW Europe several thousand years before Neanderthals disappeared in southwest Europe.

© Tim Schüler TLDA / Josephine Schubert, Museum Burg Ranis