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K. Kris Hirst

Neanderthal Refugium and the Ebro Frontier

By February 6, 2013

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A report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week provides new radiocarbon evidence pertaining to the Neanderthal refugium in the lower Iberian peninsula.

Neanderthal Sites North and South of the Ebro Frontier in Iberia
Neanderthal Sites North and South of the Ebro Frontier in Iberia. Base map: Tony Retondas.

For about 20 years or so, archaeologists and paleontologists have identified something on the order of 30 Neanderthal sites in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar, all of which have returned radiocarbon dates of between 30,000 and 36,000 years ago: up to 10,000 years later than sites in the rest of Europe. The boundary between Europe--where Neanderthal sites are no younger than ~42,000 years old--and the Iberian peninsula--where more recent sites are found--is known as the Ebro Frontier, a biogeographical boundary that is thought to have represented a hindrance to Anatomically Modern Human colonization efforts, allowing Neanderthals to exist up into the Upper Paleolithic period.

What the new paper says is that all of those late dates may be wrong, that the radiocarbon dates were on degraded or contaminated organic materials, and there may never have been a Neanderthal refugium. The jury's still out: not all of the sites have been retested, and no doubt there's more work to be done, but it certainly throws a wrench into a long-standing theory about human colonization of our planet.

Wood R, Barroso-Ruiz C, Caparrós M, Jordá Pardo JF, Galván Santos B, and Higham TFG. 2013. Radiocarbon dating casts doubt on the late chronology of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in southern Iberia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.


February 10, 2013 at 12:24 am
(1) rick doninger says:

Interesting how the wrenches are no longer “monkey” wrenches when it comes to evolutionary and migration theory challenges. Apparently even the wrenches have evolved from the monkey type to just plain “modern” wrenches.
Neanderthal technology here in the usa would sling an even bigger wrench into the theories and in fact it already does. Although not dated, which apparrenly doesn’t mean that much anyway as dates are always challenged and when all else fails the “contamination” foul can be called, artifacts of the same technology as the neanderthals is in FACT here. I don’t know if neanderthals made them or possibly just some unknown hunter gatherer group rediscovered the method of levallois core preparation and reduction. And maybe the material available dictated the technology used to make the tools and someone clovis or later was using it. Whatever the case, the toolmakers prepared and reduced cores like neanderthals did. They made levallois points the same, they made burins the same and made blades on levallois flakes the same as well as struck blades for backed knives the same. They made simple ornamental items like those believed to be neanderthal and they used ochres like the thick browed flintknappers. Tools of the mousterian type such as small hand axes, mousterian points on levallois flakes and literally every tool within Bordes typology was made. In fact I believe what has been revealed here in the usa when placed alongside any known mousterian assemblage from abroad wil only further our understanding of the tool industry of the neanderthals. In order to “see” and describe an actual tool “industry” you have to actually have one to be able to claim any sort of “industry” being present. With a tool “industry” of the neanderthal technology clearly present here, the production line of theory can expect a very large wrench to be thrown into the works. You have to have real artifactual evidence to make such a claim, and we do………rick doninger

February 11, 2013 at 7:18 pm
(2) RL Thompson says:

You stated everything but ‘where’. What dig sites have you found these wonderful relics?

February 11, 2013 at 7:37 pm
(3) rick doninger says:

RL, the site i have referred to are southern Indiana, although there are others in Tn and several other states. I might refer you to a couple threads on this site forum, “Levallois in the USA” and “Mousterian in the USA”. Click on the “news” thread in the side menu. I regularly post pics of the artifacts. You probably will not agree with my “values” but the artifacts are rock solid. Or you can email me personnally and I will be glad to send you pics. doninger@sbcglobal.net If you have a particular tool “type” you would like to see, just let me know. I have included a few clovis and later artifacts in the posted pics to show the undeniable differrences between the technologies of the levallois flake based industry and the clovis and later blade based tech. All but a couple of the artifacts came from the same indiana location……rick d.

February 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm
(4) rick doninger says:

R L , I forgot to mention that the artifacts are not coming from a dig site. They are being exposed due to some unusual erosion that is exposing the ancient tool factory near a very isolated chert outcrop……..rick d.

February 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm
(5) LeonarodV59 says:

some day some one will have an answer for all of this questions, as to the question on the time line of human occupation out of Africa, starting in the Middle East, South East Asia, Asia, Central Asia to East , North and Western Europe, last but not least the Americas, perhaps in that order, perhaps some one has already figure it all out and haven’t said anything, yet.

One of the biggest questions not yet answered in my opinion is who made the tools and art, the Neanderthals or Humans? my bet is on the Humans we already know that we are very capable of both of this abilities, but know nothing about the Neanderthals abilities, so why do you readily believe that they did it all, please just don’t tell me that is because of the carbon dating evidence, because I am not convinced of it’s accuracy, even scientist admit of it’s flaws so why? after all fossilization is not possible above ground who is to say that humans did not occupy Europe any sooner then they figure, so many questions so little time.

if you asked more questions you be that much closer to the answers even if they were wrong at first, some one could start by thinking out of the proverbial box and separate what is fact from fiction (theories), only no anthropologist can figure it out because their educations forbids them to rethink what has been taught them in school, in the past 157 years of studding the Neanderthals the theories are still basically the same, unchanged, why? I believe some one will figure it all out some day and answer all of the questions.

February 12, 2013 at 8:13 am
(6) Kris Hirst says:

Despite Rick’s postings, there still is no credible evidence of Levallois in North America, nor credible evidence of Neanderthals on this side of the Atlantic.

But, it’s a free Internet, and Rick can believe what he likes, and can (like anyone else) post away on the bulletin board to that effect: just don’t ask me to accept something for which there is no credible proof.


February 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm
(7) chas says:

rick – I’ d be just a little mor inclined to believe you if you used other-than-Neanderthal spelling and grammar.

February 12, 2013 at 9:52 pm
(8) rick doninger says:

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Your Comment*Kris , thank you for your gracious comment, but as far as “no credible evidence ” statement. I have to wonder what you consider credible? I am in possession of hundreds of levallois cores, points, burins, scrapers, hand axes, and more. As far as the levallois technology is concerned, it is not a mystery or some sort of speculation. As i have stated, I don’t know WHO made the tools, but the tools themselves are of the same types of core preparations used in sites abroad associated with the middle paleolithic. How do I know that? I have them and they are available for anyone to see. A levallouis core from france looks like a levallois core from Israel or Germany or anyahere else middle paleolithics are found. Same with Clovis tech when found in the east or in the west, They are specific identifiable core preparations. Is that a type of seriation? Ya know Kris, it is easy enough to do a comparison between my artifacts and the technology of known mousterian technology from abroad , and I have. It is the same, with the only difference being the material. Perhaps you could suggest a “genuine” levallois tool from abroad that I might show you a comparison with. Perhaps some levallois points, or mousterian points? There are plenty of examples available to compare with, pick one and we’ll give it a try.
It has been identified as levallois by Dr. Matt Pope,and Mr. Robert Turner, both quite familiar with the technology. If the artifacts themselves are not any evidence at all, I believe we are missing something.If we remove artifactual evidence from archaeology we aren’t left with much to study. I don’t know who made the tools but they used levallois core preparation and I can prove it. I have it. You don’t have to believe what you are seeing but that doesn’t change what it is.

February 12, 2013 at 10:00 pm
(9) rick doninger says:

Chas, thanks for your input, friend I have never claimed to be a scholar, just a simple faith in Jesus sort a guy. I am a window cleaner of almost 40 years now so please forgive my inaccuracies. Inclination to believe or not I would think would be based on the evidence I show vs. my spelling. In fact just the word levallois still gives me a problem to this day . In my line of work one of the things I do best is helping others see the world a little more clearly, so be patient with me…..thanks rickd.

February 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm
(10) rick doninger says:

Kris Hirst, I may be mistaken but apart from actual skeletal remains along with the tools, the only credible evidence possible to substantiate a lithic technology of any sort would be the artifactual evidence, the actual tools and cores. are you saying I don’t have that? Are you saying that what I have is NOT levallois technology?

February 15, 2013 at 8:43 am
(11) debbie988 says:

Rickd, you should have an archaeology professor or someone with credentials in that area go with you to the place where these stone tools are being recovered. It can be determined if they have been planted there by someone with a fraudulent agenda who is just waiting for someone to come along and find them, innocently thinking they are genuine. I believe that you have these Levallois tools – anyone can manufacture them – there are workshops and courses you can take to teach you how to make them. And there isn’t any dating technique to establish the age of stone artifacts except through stratigraphical analysis but to do that, one must have recovered these artifacts in undisturbed layers of earth and they must be ‘in situ”, but only a trained archaeologist can determine if finds conform to both of these conditions. You mentioned carbon dating of bones found in close proximity but these could have also been planted along with the stone tools so it’s important to have determined the artifacts were all recovered from undisturbed layers. However, archaeologists still require other genuine, authenticated sites with similar evidence to put forth a theory. And like Kris Hirst said, there hasn’t been any credible evidence of a Neanderthal presence in North America so far. Could you arrange for an archaeologist to go with you to where you have been recovering these artifacts? It would be so exciting if these are really genuine!

February 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm
(12) rick doninger says:

Thanks for your interest, and I appreciate your input and as a matter of fact there has been one archaeologist who has visited the site and has inspected the artifacts. His interest was peaked after viewing artifacts in his own collection from a site called Capps-Shelley in Alabama. it too is a levallois industry. he has also seen artifacts in the possession of of a cardio vascular surgeon from Georgia, Dr. Mark Corbitt who started the “Levallois in the USA” thread. He too has had the levallois technology in his possession from sites in Ga. And Fla. There is also an archaeologist from Fla,, Dr. Barbara Purdy who has identified the technology from a Florida site. Similar artifacts have been found in Texas as well by an amateur, Dennie Howell. Artifactual evidence has been found by professional and amateur alike and still the mainstream archaeological academic community has ignored and discredited the evidence. iIm not sure what Kris’s criticisms of Dr. Purdy’s work is that makes it non- credible, or Blaine Ensors’s work on the Capps Shelley technology that he has in his posssession which renders it useless. Samples of the tools have been sent to lithics experts who actually teach flintknapping with Sussex University in England who confirmed the technology. Dr. Matt Pope who is quite well respected abroad in the arch circles said that I needed to find a “known” parallel industry here in the USA for comparison. Problem being that, other than those assemblages that I mentioned which have been ignored, there are no parallels in the USA. At least no parallels that have been acknowledged by the “mainstream” which I assume Kris counts herself among. ………rickd

February 19, 2013 at 3:11 am
(13) Paul Levinson says:

for more on possible Neanderthal / modern human connections, see The Silk Code

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