Friday, August 13, 2010

The Cro-Magnon were the first early Homo sapiens sapiens of the European Upper Paleolithic in Europe. The earliest known remains of Cro-Magnons were radiometrically dated to 35,000 years ago. The French geologist Louis Lartet discovered the first five skeletons of Cro-Magnon in March 1868 in a rock shelter named Abri de Crô-Magnon, at Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France. The type specimen from this find is Cro-Magnon 1, carbon dated to about 28,000 14C years old. Similar specimens were subsequently discovered in other parts of Europe and neighboring areas.

The condition and placement of the remains of Cro-Magnon 1, along with pieces of shell and animal tooth in what appear to have been pendants or necklaces raises the question whether they were buried intentionally. Analysis of the pathology of the skeletons shows that the humans of this period led a physically difficult life. In addition to infection, several of the individuals found at the shelter had fused vertebrae in their necks, indicating traumatic injury; the adult female found at the shelter had survived for some time with a skull fracture. As these injuries would be life threatening even today, this suggests that Cro-Magnons believed in community support and took care of each other's injuries.

Like Neanderthals, the Cro-Magnon were primarily big-game hunters, killing mammoth, cave bears, horses and reindeer. In Mezhirich village in Ukraine, several huts built from mammoth bones have been unearthed. Cro-Magnon artifacts suggest that they knew how to make woven clothing. Apart from the mammoth bone huts mentioned, they constructed shelter of rocks, clay, branches, and animal hide. These early humans used manganese and iron oxides to paint pictures and may have created the first calendar around 15,000 years ago.

The Cro-Magnon shared the European landscape with Neanderthals for some 15,000 years or more. Recent genetic studies of a wide selection of modern humans indicate some form of hybridization took place between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon. About 3 to 6 percent of the DNA in Europeans and Asians appears to be derived from Neanderthals.