It is in the network of caves of the Rock of Gibraltar. A sealed chamber was opened 40 thousand years ago, a place inhabited by Neanderthals. A great opportunity to learn more about their culture and customs. They occupied the area for thousands of centuries.
In 2012, experts began examining Vanguard Cave. It is part of the Gorham Cave complex. In August Professor Clive Finlayson, a biologist, found a breach in the sediment. He led them to a 13-metre gap in the cave ceiling. Stalactites hung from the ceiling.
“It’s quite a chamber,” Finlayson declared. “It’s like discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb. No one’s been inside for 40,000 years. It’s quite sobering, really,” he added.
There were some remains. Bones from the leg of a lynx, vertebrae from a spotted hyena. And the large wing bone of a griffon vulture. “There are also examples of scratched claw marks on the cave walls. You normally associate those kinds of claw marks with bears. I wonder if the lynx was scratching the walls,” he added.
The bones are interesting in themselves. But there is also a large dog whale shell (a sea snail). “The cave is probably 20 meters above sea level. Someone carried it up there sometime before 40,000 years ago. People have been there.”
Now that a chamber sealed 40 thousand years has been opened, it is hoped that clues to its habitability will be found. In other places in the caves there are clues. For example, the milk tooth of a Neanderthal child. And traces of food.
“At many levels of this cave is clear evidence of occupation: campfires and so on. What we haven’t found is where they buried their own. Perhaps in a chamber at the bottom of the cave,” the biologist said.
“These caves provide us with a great deal of information about the behavior of these people. In every respect they were human. And capable of most of the things that modern humans were capable of doing,” he said.
“I did my test, and I have 2% Neanderthal DNA in me. You could say they never went extinct. There’s still a little bit of them in us,” Finlayson concluded.