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Hundreds of Neanderthal footprints dating back to about 80,000 years ago were excavated from a creek on the Normandy coast

The discovery of the Neanderthal footprint is one of the first to shed light on social groups, as 80,000-year-old fossils show a gathering of up to 14 people who are almost entirely adolescents and children

  • Experts studied 257 fossilized Neanderthal footprints from Normandy, France
  • The tracks were made in dunes that were quickly covered with sand and preserved
  • Analysis of the size of the numbers suggests that they were made by young Neanderthals
  • The site is one of only two to reveal the size and composition of Neanderthal groups
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Hundreds of Neanderthal footprints dating back to about 80,000 years ago were excavated from a creek on the Normandy coast.

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The footprints were made in dunes and were preserved when sand was swept over the prints by the wind.

Most tracks are made by children and adolescents, with a certain group of prints that are thought to have been made by around 10-14 people.

The fossilized traces are one of the few archaeological sites that reveal information about the composition of Neanderthal social groups.

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Hundreds of Neanderthal footprints dating back to about 80,000 years ago were excavated from a creek on the Normandy coast

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Hundreds of Neanderthal footprints dating back to about 80,000 years ago were excavated from a creek on the Normandy coast

Paleo-anthropologist Jérémy Duveau of the National Museum of History in Paris and colleagues analyzed 257 fossilized Neanderthal footprints from the archaeological site in La Rozel, in Normandy, France.

The prints – dating from about 80,000 years ago – are currently in the bottom of a creek on the coast and are the largest known collection of Neanderthal traces.

They would have been formed at a time when the ground was part of a dune, wind-blown sand that covered and preserved the tracks.

Studying the length and width of the prints suggests that most of them are made by children and adolescents – with the youngest probably only two years old.

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In addition to footprints, the researchers also found eight handprints and six traces left by animals.

The size and shape of the hominine prints are all consistent with those that would have been left by Neanderthals, the authors noted.

Moreover, they added that the traces date from a time when Neanderthals would have been the only humane in Western Europe.

The team also excavated stone tools at the La Rozel site that were similar in design to those at other Neanderthals sites of similar age from across Europe.

Most tracks are made by children and adolescents, with a certain group of prints that are thought to have been made by around 10-14 people

Most tracks are made by children and adolescents, with a certain group of prints that are thought to have been made by around 10-14 people

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Most tracks are made by children and adolescents, with a certain group of prints that are thought to have been made by around 10-14 people

The prints - dating from about 80,000 years ago - are currently in the bottom of a creek on the coast and are the largest known collection of Neanderthal traces

The prints - dating from about 80,000 years ago - are currently in the bottom of a creek on the coast and are the largest known collection of Neanderthal traces

The prints – dating from about 80,000 years ago – are currently in the bottom of a creek on the coast and are the largest known collection of Neanderthal traces

In addition to footprints, the researchers also found eight handprints, such as the one on the photo above, and six traces left by animals, such as the one below. The size and shape of the hominine prints are all consistent with those that would have been left by Neanderthals

In addition to footprints, the researchers also found eight handprints, such as the one on the photo above, and six traces left by animals, such as the one below. The size and shape of the hominine prints are all consistent with those that would have been left by Neanderthals

In addition to footprints, the researchers also found eight handprints, such as the one on the photo above, and six traces left by animals, such as the one below. The size and shape of the hominine prints are all consistent with those that would have been left by Neanderthals

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The researchers found no skeletal remains of Neanderthals on the site.

However, an advantage of studying petrified footprints is that they can present a snapshot of past behavior in a way that body fossils usually cannot.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Paleo-anthropologist Jérémy Duveau from the National Museum of History in Paris and colleagues analyzed 257 fossilized Neanderthal footprints from the archaeological site in La Rozel, in Normandy, France

Paleo-anthropologist Jérémy Duveau from the National Museum of History in Paris and colleagues analyzed 257 fossilized Neanderthal footprints from the archaeological site in La Rozel, in Normandy, France

Paleo-anthropologist Jérémy Duveau from the National Museum of History in Paris and colleagues analyzed 257 fossilized Neanderthal footprints from the archaeological site in La Rozel, in Normandy, France

WHO WERE THE NEANDERTHALEN?

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The Neanderthals were a close-knit human ancestor who died mysteriously about 50,000 years ago.

The species lived in Africa with early humans for hundreds of millennia before moving to Europe 500,000 years ago.

They were later accompanied by people who made the same journey in the last 100,000 years.

The Neanderthals were a sort of human cousin, but not a direct ancestor - the two species separated from a common ancestor - who died about 50,000 years ago. Pictured is an exhibition of the Neanderthal museum

The Neanderthals were a sort of human cousin, but not a direct ancestor - the two species separated from a common ancestor - who died about 50,000 years ago. Pictured is an exhibition of the Neanderthal museum

The Neanderthals were a sort of human cousin, but not a direct ancestor – the two species separated from a common ancestor – who died about 50,000 years ago. Pictured is an exhibition of the Neanderthal museum

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These were the original & # 39; cavemen & # 39 ;, traditionally thought to be stupid and cheeky compared to modern people.

However, in recent years, and especially in the last decade, it has become increasingly clear that we are selling Neanderthals briefly.

A growing number of clues indicate a more advanced and multi-talented species & # 39; caveman & # 39; than someone thought possible.

It now seems likely that Neanderthals have buried their dead with the concept of an afterlife in mind.

Moreover, their diets and behavior were surprisingly flexible.

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They used body art such as pigments and beads, and they were the very first artists, with Neanderthal cave art (and symbolism) in Spain apparently before the first 20,000 years old for the earliest modern human art.

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