40,000-year-old cave system could lead to new truths about Neanderthals

The discovery of a 40,000-year-old chamber in Gibraltar could help reveal groundbreaking research on how Neanderthals lived their lives.

Vanguard Cave in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Gorham’s Cave Complex has often lived in the shadow of its sister cave, Gorham’s Cave.

However, the new discovery of the 13-metre chamber following an excavation project has made it a significant area for research.

Archaeologists from the Gibraltar National Museum discovered the large chamber at the very back of Vanguard Cave.

One of the key findings so far has been the discovery of a milk tooth they believe belonged to a four-year-old Neanderthal.

Initial findings in the chamber found the remains of a lynx, hyaena and a Griffon Vulture.

Researchers also noticed scratch marks on the walls, which is believed to have been created from an unknown carnivore that they are trying to identify.

They also discovered a large whelk that researchers believe was transported up to the chamber.

There has also been evidence that shows signs of ancient earthquakes.

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The cave was first excavated in 1997 and a project was started in 2012, with the aim of determining if the cave had passages and chambers that had been buried.

John Cortes, Minister of Gibraltar, said: “These are exciting finds that open a new chapter of our rich history. Knowing Vanguard cave well, I often wondered what might lie behind the sands. Now we are beginning to get a first glimpse”.

The work in this chamber will now continue with the prospect of discovering items over 40 thousand years.

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It is believed that a full assessment of the cave could take decades or longer for archaeologists to complete.

Speaking to CNN, Clive Finlayson, director and chief scientist at the Gibraltar National Museum, said "As we dig, it's only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger.

"So the chances are we have an enormous cave there. And as we go down there may even be more passages. So it's extremely exciting."

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