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A stone tool thought to be a speartip made from radiolarite sourced over 100km to the east of the cave. Image: Miroslav Kralík

A team of archaeologists have shed light on the ancient human’s transition into modern humans.

Archaeologists from The Australian National University and the University of Sydney have completed an archaeological dig of a cave in the Moravian region of the Czech Republic that has provided a more conclusive timeline of modern human ancestry.

“We've found that somewhere between 40,000 [and] 48,000 years ago people became highly mobile,” archaeologist Ladislav Nejman, of the University of Sydney, said in a statement. “Instead of moving short distances near the cave where they lived, they were walking for hundreds of kilometers quite often.

“We know that because we found various artefacts where the raw material comes from 100 [to] 200 kilometers away,” he added. “The artefacts were also made of different materials from different regions.”

The dig provided evidence from 10 sedimentary layers spanning 28,000 to 50,000 in a cave near the Czech border with Austria with over 20,000 animal bones as well as stone tools, weapons and an engraved bone bead that is the oldest found in Central Europe.

“In the early layers the items we've found are locally made flakes, possibly used by small communities living and hunting in the vicinity to kill animals or prepare food but around 40,000 years ago we start to see objects coming from long distances away,” ANU archaeologists Duncan Wright, Ph.D., said in a statement. “Dating from this same time we unearthed a bead made from mammal bone.

“This is the oldest portable art object of its type found anywhere in central Europe and provides evidence of social signaling, quite possibly used as a necklace to mark the identity of the wearer,” he added. “So between these two periods, we've either seen a change in behavior and human movement or possibly even a change in species.”

The 10th layer, which represents a time period between 48,000 and 45,000 years ago, contained stone artifacts that were made using local raw material, indicating that the high residential mobility came at a later period.

Nejman also said the sediment showed that the climate changed from warmer to colder and vice versa, but at all times it was still colder than the interglacial period than the past 10,000 years.

The researchers analyzed samples from the site using a new technique called ancient sediment DNA analysis, which tests remnant DNA preserved in the sediment to detect for the first time which species were present even without the physical bones of the species.

According to Wright, the results show more about the activities of modern human ancestors in a region and time period void of conclusive information.

“We can tell by the artefacts that small groups of people camped at this cave,” Wright said. “This was during glacial periods suggesting they were well adapted to these harsh conditions.

“It's quite possible that the two different species of humans met in this area,” he added.

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