The sand sheets in the rampant dunes above Catalan Bay in Gibraltar have a relic of the last glaciation, when the sea level was 120 meters below present levels and a great field of dunes extending eastwards from the base of the Rock. Several vertebrate footprints have been found at the site over the years, now the list also includes a track left by a Neanderthal.
The International Journal Quaternary Science Reviews has just published a paper which involved the participation of Gibraltarian scientists from The Gibraltar National Museum along with colleagues from Spain, Portugal and Japan. The results that have been published come from an area of the Catalan Bay Sand Dune.
The place where the Neanderthal footprint was found. (Universidad de Sevilla)
10 Years of Work
This work started ten years ago, when the first dates using the OSL method were obtained. It is then that the first traces of footprints left by vertebrates were found. In subsequent years, the successive natural collapse of sand has revealed further material and has allowed for a detailed study including new dates.
The identified footprints correspond to species that are known, from fossil material, to have inhabited Gibraltar. They correspond to Red Deer, Ibex, Aurochs, Leopard and Straight-tusked Elephant. In addition, scientists have found the footprint of a young man (106-126 cm (3.5-4.1 feet) in height), possibly Neanderthal, which dates back to about 29,000 years ago. It would coincide with the late Neanderthal dates from Gorham's Cave.
View of Gorham's Cave, a sea cave in the east face of the Rock of Gibraltar, Gibraltar. (Gibmetal77 / CC BY 3.0)
Only the Second Example of Neanderthal Footprints in the World
If these were confirmed to be Neanderthal, these dunes would become the second site in the world with footprints attributed to these humans, the other being Vartop Cave in Romania. These findings add a further international importance to the Gibraltar Pleistocene Heritage, declared of World Heritage Value in 2016.
The research was supported by the Gibraltar Caves Project and annual excavations in the Gibraltar Caves, with additional support to MICINN-FEDER: CGL2010-15810 / BTE.
Neanderthal engraving in Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar.
Minister of Heritage John Cortes MP commented:
"This is an extraordinary research and gives us an incredible insight into the wildlife community of Gibraltar's past. "I congratulate the research team on uncovering this fascinating, hidden evidence of our Rock's past."
Top Image: Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) footprint in the Natural History Museum in Prague. Source: Claire H. / CC BY SA 2.0
The article, originally titled 'Neanderthal footprints found in Gibraltar', was first published on Science Daily.
Source: University of Seville. "Neanderthal footprints found in Gibraltar." ScienceDaily.
Fernando Muñiz, Luis M. Caceres, Joaquín Rodriguez-Vidal, Carlos Neto de Carvalho, João Belo, Clive Finlayson, Geraldine Finlayson, Stewart Finlayson, Tatiana Izquierdo, Manuel Abad, Francisco J. Jiménez- Espejo, Saiko Sugisaki, Paula Gomez, Francisco Ruiz. ' Following the last Neanderthals: Mammal tracks in the Late Pleistocene coastal dunes of Gibraltar (Iberian Peninsula) . Quaternary Science Reviews 2019; DOI: 10.1016 / j.quascirev.2019.01.013