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Neanderthals Roamed With Bison East of Berlin, Find Shows

Bone remnants of animals
Bone remnants of animals show that elk, bison, wolves and horses co-existed with the Neanderthal man 130,000 years ago in the region east of Berlin. The finds were unearthed by archaeologists in a coalmine operated by Vattenfall AB. Source: Brandenburg Ministry for Science, Research and Culture via Bloomberg

Fossils and flint tools found in a coal mine prove that Neanderthal man roamed the region east of Berlin during the last-but-one ice age, the Brandenburg state government said.

The finds, in a mine run by Swedish power company Vattenfall AB, date back 130,000 years. They are the oldest evidence of human existence in the region, the Ministry of Science, Research and Culture said in a statement sent by e-mail. Previously, evidence of human life in the region only went back 40,000 years, according to the statement.

Archaeologists unearthed tools including a scraper for removing flesh from animal skins, and a stone for shaping tools and weapons. Twenty meters below the surface, they also found remnants of wolf, horse, elk and bison at the Jaenschwalde lignite mine, near the city of Cottbus and the Polish border.

“This find rewrites Brandenburg history,” Sabine Kunst, the state official in charge of culture, said in the release.

Fossils show the surrounding habitat was a shallow, watery dell where buckthorn, birch trees, herbs, grasses and moss grew, according to researchers from Berlin’s Free University.

The climate was similar to northern Scandinavia’s today, mild enough to allow Neanderthals to migrate there at least during the summer months, Annette Kossler, a Free University paleontologist, said in the release.

Vattenfall has contributed about 8 million euros ($10.9 million) toward funding the archaeologists’ work in the past years, according to the statement.

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