Since the first Neanderthal fossils were first discovered near the Altai Mountains, the easternmost place in the area where according to anthropologists they lived, people have begun to wonder how these hominids migrated so widely.
The route leading from Europe to this area of Siberia sees a distance of over 3000 km that these hominids must have traveled over hundreds of years of migration. Confirmation of such a shift also comes from the DNA of European and Asian people showing similar traits.
In 2007, 74 Neanderthal fossils were found in the Chagyrskaya Cave, near the Altai Mountains, in addition to several tens of thousands of stone or bone tools undoubtedly made by the Neanderthals themselves. Conducting more detailed and in-depth investigations of the finds taken from this site, Richard Roberts, a professor at the University of Wollongong, has discovered new clues.
He discovered that Neanderthal men lived in this cave between 59,000 and 49,000 years ago, before Homo sapiens arrived in this area. The instruments are very similar to those discovered at sites in Central and Eastern Europe, as reported by Kseniya Kolobova of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Novosibirsk, another researcher involved in these analyses.
According to researchers, it is the region between Crimea and the North Caucasus the “ancestral homeland” of cultures whose populations then moved to the area of Chagyrskaya cave. As Roberts points out, Chagyrskaya cave is more than 1800 miles away from the Eastern European area. This means that the Neanderthals didn’t lose heart and showed themselves to be daring explorers and a true nomadic population after traveling a distance equivalent to that between Sydney and New York, a journey that Roberts himself calls “epic.”
They found themselves living in a cold, dry environment, probably with few trees, and were most likely adept at hunting bison and wild horses. They therefore adapted well to a landscape, that of the steppe, quite different from the European one they came from. According to the researchers, they must have passed around the Caspian Sea and then advanced east along the steppe belt.
The migratory flows from Europe to Siberia by the Neanderthals, in any case, were at least two and were separated: a first migration occurred more than 100,000 years ago and saw the occupation by the Neanderthals also of the Denisova cave, a site where the enigmatic Denisovans lived, considered as a twin group of Neanderthals.
A second migration took place 60,000 years ago and was the one that brought the Neanderthals near the cave of Chagysrkaya.