Iran is likely to be a hotspot of archaeological sites, according to a peer-reviewed study, published in PLOS ONE that tracked eastern Neanderthal migration.
Neanderthals are thought to be one of the earliest pre-human groups in European history. They are the first example of a ‘society’ in many ways.
Neanderthals cared for the sick and elderly, created art and controlled fire. This stage in evolution is thought to have been one of the most essential time periods for humanity's development.
Where was Neanderthal migration tracked to?
The study tracked Neanderthal migration from Europe to areas of the Caspian Sea in northern Iran. Previous studies, which used genetic testing, have found European Neanderthal DNA in Uzbekistan and Siberia. Historians are still trying to understand how the migration happened and for what reason.
The researchers used the geographical data system, known as QGIS, and input bio-geographical information of past climate changes to understand the optimal path that Neanderthals would have taken. The path is referred to as the Least-Cost-Path (LCP.)
LCPs are rarely the most direct route. This is because travelers need to account for obstacles like enemy territory, difficult terrain or weather factors.
When assessing the likely LCP for Neanderthals, the researchers used the starting point of two known archaeological sites. The origin point was two caves in the Altai mountains of Russia. It is thought, based on cultural materials found at the two sites, that the Neanderthals were from two distinct lineages. This would mean that there were multiple groups migrating in and around the region, not just a singular nomadic tribe.
The Southern Caspian Sea was thought to have been a likely migration route because of its humidity and mild temperature. The weather conditions would likely help plants grow and provide resources for wandering groups.
Significance of the study
The route, which provided an ideal entry and exit point for Europe, further confirms the possibility for Neanderthals and Homo sapiens to have met and interacted.
Having a possible location for future archaeological digs opens possibilities for answering questions on human history, that were previously left unanswered.