Redating the Vindija Fossils

Keat’s Telescope and John Hawks both have write ups of the redating of some of the Vindija Cave Neanderthal material.
A little background.
Map of Croatia
North of the City of Zagreb lies the city of Krapina. Some 15 miles further north lies Vindija cave.


At Vindija cave a number of important hominid remains have been found. The Vindija specimens are important for two reasons. According to Wolpoff, the Vindija specimens allow for a fairly acurate determination of evolutionary trends in central and eastern Europe. Morphologically speaking the specimens are interesting. The have mental eminences (chins – usually taken to be a sign of anatomically modern humans) of varying degrees of development. The mandibles, for example, have little or no retromolar space or gap between the ascending ramus and third molar.
And in one mandible the ramus overlaps the third molar. The supraorbitals are reduced. Several maxillas show reduced facial height, narrow nasal openings, etc.
The Vindija specimens are overlain by a Aurignacian level (see here, and here for a primer on the Aurignacian). The interesting thing about this is that a mandible, parietal and some anterior teeth have been found in the Aurignacian level that are identical to the earlier neanderthal remains in the earlier levels. Typically the Vindija remains are interpreted to support the multiregional continuity theory.
With that in mind, the Vindija samples had originally been dated to about 28,000-29000 years ago. However, recent work indicates there were some contamination problems. The specimens have since been redated to about 32,400 +- 800 BP, and 32,400 +- 1800 BP. As Hawks’ article indicates, there are two important points to take away. First, the Aurignacian, has been taken to represent anatomically modern humans. Although, the Vindija specimens and other finds make this link tenuous at best. Second, as the abstract points out:

These results and the recent redating of a number of purportedly old modern human skeletal remains in Europe to younger time periods highlight the importance of fine chronological control when studying this biocultural time period and the tenuous nature of monolithic scenarios for the establishment of modern humans and earlier phases of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe.

The point here is that we have few specimens (from the relevant time periods) upon which to hang a chronology and erect sweeping theories.
A third point, unmentioned by Hawks, is that this actually helps the multiregional continuity camp because it allows more time for neanderthals to evolve into anatomically modern humans.

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