176,500-year-old stalagmite structures found in French cave
In at least one part of Stone Age Europe, Neandertals were lords of the rings. Humankind’s close evolutionary cousins built large, circular structures out of stalagmites in a French cave around 176,500 years ago, researchers say.
Neandertal groups explored the cave’s dark recesses, where they assembled stalagmite pieces into complex configurations, archaeologist Jacques Jaubert of the University of Bordeaux in France and colleagues report online May 25 in Nature. Two ring-shaped formations and four smaller stalagmite arrangements, situated 336 meters inside France’s Bruniquel Cave, all display traces of ancient fires on stalagmite chunks.
These ancient constructions were discovered in the early 1990s, but limited access to Bruniquel Cave delayed dating of the finds until 2013. Jaubert’s team calculated the age of these creations based on the decay of uranium variants