Since 2022, Toulouse archaeologist Ludovic Slimak has been calling for a rewriting of the history of Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. In his latest study, the researcher affirms that the colonization of Europe by modern men took place in three waves of settlement and this from the 54th millennium, 12,000 years before the commonly accepted date.
Ludovic Slimak, archaeologist, is a CNRS researcher at the Center for Anthropobiology and Genomics (CAGT) in Toulouse. He answered questions from La Dépêche du Midi after his last study on the colonization of Europe by modern men.
You question the chronology of the colonization of Europe by Homo Sapiens. How long have you been on this track?
It all started in 2004 with the examination of a collection of extremely modern flints found in the 1870s in several sites in the Rhône valley, including the cave of Nero, and which were attributed to Neanderthals. This craft was identical to the flint points that I discovered on my side in the Mandrin cave, in the Drôme. Points produced in series and all identical to within 1 or 2 millimeters, testifying to a standardization that is not found in Neanderthals. I baptized these flints “Néroniens”. In 2015, Laure Metz, member of the Mandrin team, highlighted that this remarkable technology was the mark of mastery of bows and arrows, of an archery of the 54e millennium, very far from proven Neanderthal knowledge. In 2016, by immersing myself at Harvard University in the archaeological collections of Lebanon associated with Sapiens, I was able to see that the archery technology was the same as that which characterized the men of the Neronian. An impossible thing, unless it is the same human society… As early as 2017, I therefore hypothesized a migration of Sapiens to Europe at least ten millennia before the commonly accepted date .
Did the discovery of human remains come to support your certainties?
In thirty years excavations in the Mandrin cave, we found nine baby teeth temanointing the different phases of installation of groups of hunter-gatherers in the cavity. These teeth have all been attributed to Neanderthal except one, associated with an archaic Homo Sapiens and which had been found in the same geological stratum as the Neronian flint points. This discovery was the subject of a study, published in February 2022. A correlation was established on the basis of thousands of objects and comparative studies between the craft traditions of the populations of the Middle East and the Sapiens of the Neronian of the Rhone Valley, 3000km away. The analysis of human remains was the icing on the cake, it confirmed our certainties. Until 2022, it seemed established that the first migrations of Sapiens to Europe took place between 45,000 and 42,000 years ago in a territory occupied by Neanderthals. The study revealed the presence of Sapiens from the 54e millennium. We got 12,000 years wrong, that’s something.
What does your latest study, published on May 3 in the scientific journal PlosOne, bring?
She explains that the colonization of Sapiens took place in three phases and that what was taken for the first phase of settlement, 42,000 years ago, is in fact the last. This challenges the historical storyline about Neanderthals and Sapiens. The contact phase was not reduced to the last wave. There have been at least 12,000 interactions between these two populations. From the Neanderthal point of view, it also induces a rewriting of the understanding of this society, its technical capacities and its process of extinction. Neanderthals have been credited with modern technologies that actually belonged to Sapiens. In reality, this human group has not changed its way of being in the world for millennia. He died against Sapiens without having changed anything in his craftsmanship or his technologies.
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It is also the subject of your latest book, The Last Neanderthal (1) which follows naked neanderthalreleased in 2022…
These two books are travelogues that talk about us and our future. 42,000 years ago, Neanderthals populated all of Eurasia. His craftsmanship, very beautiful, was hard to reproduce. Each object was unique. At Sapiens, on the contrary, the craftsmanship and parietal art were the same thousands of kilometers apart. They responded to codes, group norms. Where Neanderthal shows great individual creativity, Sapiens testifies to a desire to be together and the same, to standardization, to a refusal of difference. There is something about Sapiens that comes from “la moutonnade”. This need for standardization has given it great efficiency. When he arrived, all humanities were swept away.
Should we be wary of Sapiens, therefore of ourselves?
The old Sapiens indeed speak to us about us. There is something in our biological instinct, in our way of being in the world, that can be dangerous for our society and for our planet. After having swept away the other humanities, what remains for him to swept away is himself. The history of the 20th century has shown this. You have to be aware of it so that it doesn’t reproduces itself. These books are SOS, a dangerous future is in front of us if we fail to bend our nature.
(1) The Last Neanderthalpublished in May 2023 by Odile Jacob