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French site sparks Neandertal debate

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1:40pm, September 13, 2005

Around 36,000 years ago, Neandertals and people lived side by side in southwestern France for at least a millennium, according to a newly assembled chronology of ancient occupations there. Paul Mellars of Cambridge University in England and his coworkers say that their work supports the controversial view that shortly before dying out about 28,000 years ago, Neandertals borrowed toolmaking techniques from neighboring Homo sapiens.

Mellars' team took radiocarbon measurements to date animal bones previously excavated at a French cave. Neandertal stone tools recovered there, dubbed Chatelperronian artifacts, display a toolmaking style that blends techniques typical of Neandertals and of Late Stone Age people.

From the ages of bones found with various tools, the scientists conclude that two periods of Chatelperronian toolmaking occurred in the cave, one 40,000 to 39,000 years ago and the second between 36,000 and 34,500 years ago. Implements with sharpened edges ch

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