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Neanderthals in Gibraltar

The caves in the Rock of Gibraltar that the Neanderthals inhabited have been excavated and have revealed a wealth of information about their lifestyle and the prehistoric landscape of the area. The peninsula stood on the edge of a fertile coastal plain, now submerged, that supported a wide variety of animals and plants which the Neanderthals exploited to provide a highly varied diet. Unlike northern Europe, which underwent massive swings in its climate and was largely uninhabitable for long periods, the far south of Iberia enjoyed a stable and mild climate for over 125,000 years. It became a refuge from the ice ages for animals, plants and Neanderthals, the latter of which most certainly did not survive there for thousand years longer than any other habitation site.

Source: Neanderthals in Gibraltar – Wikipedia


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  1. Tim B.

    “Pleistocene Gibraltar was physically very different from today. During the ice ages, the much greater volume of water locked up in the polar ice caps and continental glaciers meant that sea levels were far lower than in the present day. In the late Pleistocene period, when Neanderthals inhabited Gibraltar, the sea level was as much as 85 metres (279 ft) lower than today.[16] The drop in sea levels exposed a coastal plain which considerably increased the size of the Gibraltar peninsula. ”


    “The entire coastal plain is now submerged in the Bay of Gibraltar, Strait of Gibraltar and Alboran Sea due to the rise in sea levels over the last 12,000 years, but its environment can be reconstructed in detail from the evidence of pollen, seeds and animal bones found in the caves of Gibraltar. It would have predominantly been a sandy grassland with patchy trees and shrubs, supporting a wide variety of flora and fauna.[17] The wildlife included important game species – red deer, wild cattle, rabbits and wild boars – and predators including spotted hyenas, leopards, lynxes, wolves, brown bears, wildcats and possibly lions. Gibraltar was, then as now, a key waypoint on the avian migration route between Europe and Africa and a very wide variety of birds was present”


    “The iconic ice age mammals of northern Europe – woolly rhinos, mammoths, bison, reindeer, muskox and cave bears – never made it as far south as Gibraltar, which enjoyed a temperate and stable year-round climate due to its southerly latitude, distance from the coastal mountains and position on the Mediterranean shore. As a result, it became a kind of “Africa in Europe” where animals, plants and Neanderthals were able to shelter from the worst effects of the ice ages.[20]”

  2. Tim B.

    “The range of resources consumed by the Neanderthals seems to have remained constant throughout the 100,000 years of their occupation, as did their tools; as they did not face changes to their local environment, they had no need to develop new technologies, unlike the northern Neanderthals.”

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