Mezmaiskaya Cave (Мезмайская пещера) is a cave overlooking the right bank of the Sukhoi Kurdzhips (a small tributary of the Kurdzhips River) in the southern Russian Republic of Adygea, located in the northwestern foothills of the North Caucasus in the Caucasus Mountains System.
However, a rib fragment from the partial skeleton of a Neanderthal infant found in the cave was radiocarbon-dated to 29,195 ± 965 B.P., and therefore belonging to the latest lived Neanderthals. The value obtained from the bone itself rather than from associated material gives the most reliable date for this individual.
Ancient DNA was recovered for a mtDNA sequence showing 3.48% divergence from that of the Feldhofer Neanderthal, some 2,500 km to the west in Germany. Phylogenetic analysis places the two in a clade distinct from modern humans, suggesting that their mtDNA types have not contributed to the modern human mtDNA pool.
Faunal remains show a very low degree of weathering, with many bones having traces of stone tool cuts and carnivore modification. The most common large mammals are steppe bison (Bison priscus), Caucasian goat (Capra caucasica), and Asiatic mouflon (Ovis orientalis). Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) remains were encountered for the first time in the Caucasus.
Although most of the smaller vertebrate remains appear to have been accumulated by nonhuman processes (for example, owl predation), the majority of the ungulate remains probably represent animals hunted by the Mousterian era occupants of the cave.
Evidenced recovered from the cave suggests that a Campanian ignimbrite volcanic super-eruption around 40,000 years ago may have been a setback for the Neanderthal, with an as yet only postulated eruption contributing to their demise about 29,000 years ago.
- Anders Götherström, Galina P. Romanova, Vitaliy M. Kharitonov, Kerstin Lidén & William Goodwin (30 March 2000). "Molecular analysis of Neanderthal DNA from the northern Caucasus" 404 (6777). Nature 404. pp. 490–493. doi:10.1038/35006625. PMID 10761915. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
- Baryshnikova, Gennady; John F. Hoffeckerb; Robin L. Burgess (May 1996). "Palaeontology and Zooarchaeology of Mezmaiskaya Cave (Northwestern Caucasus, Russia)". Abstract (Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 23, Issue 3, 1996): 313–335. doi:10.1006/jasc.1996.0030. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
Over 6000 large mammal and numerous small vertebrate remains have been recovered from preliminary excavations at Mezmaiskaya Cave
- L. V. Golovanova; John F. Hoffecker; V. M. Kharitonov; G. P. Romanova (February 1999). "Mezmaiskaya Cave: A Neanderthal Occupation in the Northern Caucasus". Current Anthropology Vol. 40, No. 1 (The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research): 77–86. doi:10.1086/515805. JSTOR 10.
- Liubov Vitaliena Golovanova; Vladimir Borisovich Doronichev; Naomi Elancia Cleghorn; Marianna Alekseevna Koulkova; Tatiana Valentinovna Sapelko; M. Steven Shackley (2010; 51 (5): 655). "Volcanoes Wiped out Neanderthals, New Study Suggests" (news release). ScienceDaily (University of Chicago Press Journals). Journal Current Anthropology. doi:10.1086/656185.
Significance of Ecological Factors in the Middle to Upper Paleolithic TransitionCheck date values in:
- Bruce Bower (October 23, 2010). "Neandertals blasted out of existence, archaeologists propose". Science News Vol.178 #9. p. 12. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
Modern humans may have thrived thanks to geographic luck, not wits