Riel-Salvatore identified projectile points, ochre, bone tools, ornaments and possible evidence of fishing and small game hunting at Uluzzian archeological sites throughout southern Italy. Such innovations are not traditionally associated with Neanderthals, strongly suggesting that they evolved independently, possibly due to dramatic changes in climate. More importantly, they emerged in an area geographically separated from modern humans.There are three "adaptive" technologies found in Europe at the Neandertal/early modern nexus: the Uluzzian, in Italy, the Szeletian in Hungary and the Chatelperronian in France. These have traditionally been interpreted as attempts by Neandertals to acculturate the technologies of the incoming moderns. Recent evidence has suggested, however, that, at least in the case of the Chatelperronian (also Castelperronean), the Neandertals and modern humans either coexisted at the site or occupied the same site at different times. The technology is sort of a modern/Neandertal hybrid. Interestingly, the same problem occurs in the Near East, where it is clear that the Neandertals and early moderns in the area were using the same tool types—the Levantine Mousterian. The only difference between the sites is that the early moderns appear to have used a higher percentage of knives.
"My conclusion is that if the Uluzzian is a Neanderthal culture it suggests that contacts with modern humans are not necessary to explain the origin of this new behavior. This stands in contrast to the ideas of the past 50 years that Neanderthals had to be acculturated to humans to come up with this technology," he said. "When we show Neanderthals could innovate on their own it casts them in a new light. It `humanizes' them if you will."
As more information continues to come to light, including the recent revelation that Neandertals contributed to the modern human genome, it becomes harder to relegate them to the class of intellectually inferior species. It also becomes clear that the reasons for their disappearance (volcanoes aside) are complex.
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