A rare archaeological discovery of 60,000-year-old Neanderthal bones in northern Israel may result in anthropologists rewriting history.
The Neanderthal remains were uncovered in Ein Qashish as part of an archaeological dig coordinated by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), prior to major road construction in the area.
The bones were found in an open-air site—the first such discovery in the Levant region—and contradict previously held assumptions that Neanderthals dwelled primarily in caves.
A joint study of the findings, published Wednesday, was conducted by researchers from Israel’s Ono Academic College, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the IAA, in collaboration with Germany’s Museum for Human Behavioral Evolution.
“The discovery of Neanderthals at open-air sites during the late MP (Mesozoic Period) reinforces the view that Neanderthals were a resilient population in the Levant shortly before Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens populated the region,” the study states.
Researchers applied advanced imaging techniques to a single upper molar tooth from the Neanderthal remains, and also to remains of lower limbs from a second Neanderthal body.
“A number of researchers have recently claimed that Neanderthals were adapted to life in rugged mountainous terrains whereas modern humans adapted better to flat and open landscapes. The finds from Ein Qashish show that Neanderthals inhabited sites in diverse topographic and ecological contexts,” the IAA said.
In addition to the Neanderthal bones, flint tools, animal bones and other items were discovered at the archaeological site.