Scladina cave site
Scladina cave is located near a road up the hill to the right of the bank Meuse, south-west of the village of Sclayn. It borders several other caves in the middle Meuse, in which other important paleoanthropological remains have been discovered, such as caves Schmerling of Spy Cave of Ramioul or Lyell Cave .
The cave site is heavy with artefacts of Neanderthal life, including stone and bone tools, and various other remains. Caves have been explored in the area since 1949. Scladina Cave was discovered in 1971 by cavers CAS (Archaeological Circle sclaynois). After initially clearing the entrance, the first excavations quickly uncovered carved tools, dating from the Middle Palaeolithic ( Mousterian) , from about 300 000 to 34 000 years ago). More vestiges of this time had been found in Belgium for nearly a century. In 1978, the University of Liège participated in excavations. Two Neanderthal occupations were identified: one dating from 130,000 years, and the other 40 000 years. The archaic modern human ( Cro-magnon ) also briefly occupied the site in the Upper Paleolithic (between 32,000 and 9,000 years ago) and used the site as a place of burial in the Neolithic (between −5300 and −2000).
Continual excavation since 1971 has allowed for a slow stream of findings, leading up to the discovery of the significant Sclayn child in 1993. The archaeological site of the Palaeolithic Sclayn cave is classified as an exceptional underground heritage site of Wallonia , as of 27 May 2009, and is open to the public.
Scladina Neanderthal child
Dated to around 100–127,000 years ago, the jaw of the infamous Scladina Neanderthal child was found on 16 July 1993. The specimen includes a partial cranium and jaw bone, of which the oldest DNA sample to date was able to be extracted from a tooth molar. He or she is thought to be 8 years and 17 days old at the time of death.
Physiology and development
Originally thought to be a 10–12-year-old Neanderthal child, other growth indicators, dating eruption of tooth wear marks, suggest that the child was only around 8 years old at the time of death. Sclayn child's DNA is currently the oldest Homo DNA to have been extracted from fossil record. This is significant because it has allowed for genetic mapping of Neanderthal genes, and for comparison between archaic H. neanderthalensis and H sapiens,. It was suggested that the Scladina child was 2 to 4 years older than the original estimates, based upon the progressive dental development. It has become more evident that H. neanderthalensis children had a faster rate of dental development than that of modern human children, and that this rate of development may also have affected other modes of juvenile development, both with a relatively quicker onset of sexual maturity, as well as different, faster patterns of cognitive development.
Tooth development is related to overall physiological development through patterns of tooth and molar eruption. For example, first molar eruption coincides with the weaning stage, universally for the primate phylum, and the upsurge of the third molar indicates the onset of sexual development. A single infant tooth was also found at the Scladina cave site, and considerable analysis suggests that the particular infant to which this tooth belonged received 9 solid months of breastfeeding, and then an additional 9 months of weaning, adding up to 18 months of breastfeeding in total. This weaning cycle is considerably longer than some modern cultures today. So while there is significant evidence that Neanderthal children may have grown up faster, stages of infancy were not affected on the same level.
The age of Scladina/Sclayn child at death was one of the key evidences that the extremely prolonged duration of modern human development is unique to Homo sapiens, and that it is a very relatively recent development in human evolution. Although there still remains some debate on the matter, the more rapid development apparent in Homo neanderthalensis children (wherein sexual onset may have occurred up to 4 years sooner) puts Neanderthal development patterns at a progressive stage in between modern Homo sapiens and that of earlier occurrences of Homo erectus. This trend also suggests to many scientists the necessary prevalence of differing patterns of behavioral and social development as well.
Behavior and tool use
The Neanderthal diet, much like that of early and modern Homo sapiens hunter-gatherer societies, is largely accepted to consist mostly of meat and flesh (at 70% or more overall), although some cooked vegetables are evident. Provisioning techniques, made superior by extensive tool use, aided early Homo in pursuits of worldwide expansion. One large game evident in the diets of Scladina Neanderthals is bear. Several bear bones were found amongst other stone tools and modifiers within the Scladina cave site. Wear marks on the bones, 4 of the 6 bear bone tools which originated from a single femur, exhibit abrasion traits that classify them as lithic retouchers.
- Journal reference: Tanya M. Smith, Michel Toussaint, Donald J. Reid, Anthony J. Olejniczak, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Rapid Dental Development in a Middle Paleolithic Belgian Neanderthal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA December 2007
- Stringer, Chris (13 March 2012). Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 73–. ISBN 9780805088915. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
- Laboratoire de biologie moléculaire de la cellule (LBMC) (CNRS / Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon joint lab). Orlando et al., "Revisiting Neandertal diversity with a 100,000-year-old mtDNA sequence," Current Biology. 16 (11): R400-2. 2006.
- Christine Austin, Tanya M. Smith, Asa Bradman, Katie Hinde, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, David Bishop, Dominic J. Hare, Philip Doble, Brenda Eskenazi, Manish Arora. Barium distributions in teeth reveal early-life dietary transitions in primates. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12169
- Scladina Cave Archaeological Center (French)