Researchers have recently unearthed hominin footprints along the Catalan Bay Sand Dune in Gibraltar, which they believe were created by a very young Neanderthal 29,000 years ago. The newest excavations at this location have been supported by the HM Government of Gibraltar through the Gibraltar Caves Project, and helped by scientists working in conjunction with another Spanish project.
According to the Daily Mail, this area has been under investigation for the past 10 years, and researchers have also found the tracks of numerous ancient animals here, including ibex, red deer, leopards, aurochs, and elephants, with the Neanderthal footprints the latest discovery to have been made at this location.
As Neanderthals slowly began to dwindle in number approximately 40,000 years ago, this discovery could very well mean that this may have been one of the last Neanderthals, although evidence has been put forward which suggests that Neanderthals may have been more common than originally thought, even 28,000 years ago, with the last Neanderthals straggling along until they eventually became extinct.
Gorham's Cave, which is relatively close in distance to the sand dunes where the footprints were discovered, is believed to be one of the last homes of Neanderthals living in Europe, and if the 29,000-year-old tracks are proven to indeed be those left behind by a Neanderthal, this would make it only the second time in history that Neanderthal footprints have been discovered, with the other set having been uncovered in Vartop Cave in Romania.The sand dunes found around Catalan Bay were formed during the last Ice Age and tell the tale of a time when the sea levels in this area were close to 400 feet lower than they currently are, and when the dunes would have been more prolific, meandering much further than they do now.
After analyzing the footprints in Gibraltar of what is believed to be a Neanderthal, this young individual has been estimated to have been between 3.4 to 4-feet tall.
As Minister for Heritage John Cortes MP explained, this exciting discovery has showcased the rich heritage of Gibraltar.
"This is extraordinary research and gives us an incredible insight into the wildlife community of Gibraltar's past. We should all take a moment to imagine the scene when these animals walked across our landscape. It helps us understand the importance of looking after our heritage. I congratulate the research team on uncovering the fascinating, hidden evidence of our Rock's past."The latest research on the discovery of what are believed to be 29,000-year-old Neanderthal footprints in Gibraltar has been published in Quaternary Science Reviews.