Two specimens, Vi-207 and Vi-208, were originally directly AMS dated in the late 1990s at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU). If the dates are even approximately correct, however, it makes them the most recent known Neanderthals.
Vi-207 is a right posterior mandible and Vi-208 is a parietal fragment, both showing Neanderthal-specific morphology (11, 12). This would imply a more extensive temporal overlap between Neanderthals and early modern humans in central Europe than has recently been documented (4).
Unfortunately, there was insufficient collagen remaining from this sample after pretreatment. The majority of the 383 samples we analyzed yielded poor collagen preservation, which prevented any identification to genus or taxon.
Only 101 samples produced identifiable spectra; a summary of all taxa identified by Zoo MS is shown in ), which again highlights the use of applying such techniques to groups of unidentified Paleolithic bone samples.
We have been working on redating some of the purported late-surviving Neanderthal sites from around Europe, which have included human and archaeological remains from sites such as Mezmaiskaya (Russia), where a previous directly dated Neanderthal infant yielded a radiocarbon age of ∼29,000 B. (7), and Zafarraya (Spain), which was thought to contain Neanderthal remains clustering in age around a small group of U-series–dated animal bones between 33,400 and 28,900 B. This, along with other AMS dates from cut-marked fauna from the same archaeological horizons, suggested the original date of 29,000 B. The Neanderthal fossil remains from level G of Vindija Cave in northern Croatia have remained in the literature as potentially late individuals. (14) attempted to redate these specimens by taking the very small amounts of collagen remaining from the original sample pretreatment and ultrafiltering the product before AMS dating. The radiocarbon date for this sample could therefore include a higher molecular weight noncollagenous contaminant, possibly cross-linked to the collagen.
Given the evidence from the Peștera cu Oase specimen, which demonstrates a recent Neanderthal ancestry in a 40,000 cal B. modern human from the Danube corridor (5), the renewed dating of the Vindija remains is overdue. On the basis of the potential problems associated with the small size of the redated samples and the potential for remaining contaminants, Ox A-X-2089-06 was considered to be a minimum age (14).
The picture was taken after the bone had undergone sampling for Zoo MS and before sampling for a DNA, radiocarbon, and stable isotope analysis.
We identified one bone that is Neanderthal, based on its mitochondrial DNA, and dated it directly to 46,200 ± 1,500 B. We also attempted to date six early Upper Paleolithic bone points from stratigraphic units G. in Europe witnessed the so-called biocultural transition from the Middle to early Upper Paleolithic, when incoming anatomically modern humans displaced Neanderthal groups across the continent (1, 2).
All dates obtained on the four Neanderthal specimens at the ORAU are reported in Table 2.
We also list the dates obtained on two other hominin samples: Vi-75-G3/h-203, analyzed at the Uppsala Radiocarbon Laboratory (Sweden) (23), and Vi-2291-18 (level G, sublayer unknown), prepared at the Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, and dated at the ORAU (24).
(Genomic analysis based on mitochondrial DNA revealed that all four human specimens fall into Neanderthal mitochondrial variation.
Full mitochondrial genomes of Vi-207 and Vi-*28 were reconstructed with an average coverage of 103-fold and 257-fold, respectively.