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Ars Technica: Neanderthals’ relatives climbed an erupting volcano 350,000 years ago

Posted: Wed Feb 05, 2020 1:49 pm
by srb
I thought this article about some very old mountaineers was interesting and figured I'd pass it along. From an Ars Technica article summarizing findings of a Journal of Quaternary Science article:
Roccamonfina volcano, about 60km northwest of Vesuvius, erupted violently around 350,000 years ago. Pyroclastic flows—deadly torrents of hot gas and volcanic ash—raced down the sides of the mountain. But within a few days, a small group of hominins trekked across the layer of ash and pumice that covered the steep mountainside. Recent analysis and some newly identified prints suggest that the intrepid (or reckless) hominins may have been Homo heidelbergensis who lived and hunted near the volcano.

Another layer of ash later covered the slope, sealing away at least 81 tracks until the early 1800s, when erosion revealed them to the local humans. The tracks record where at least five climbers, all with different foot sizes, walked down the steep, ash-covered hillside. One trail zigzags back and forth downhill, and you can easily picture climbers carefully working their way diagonally across the slope. Along another, more curving path, there are still handprints where the climbers reached out to steady themselves, and a slide mark reveals where one climber slipped.
Full article: ... years-ago/

Re: Ars Technica: Neanderthals’ relatives climbed an erupting volcano 350,000 years ago

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 4:59 pm
by Wandering Daisy
Volcanic eruptions were likely known to those who lived in that area. Eruptions occur often, if not in one's lifetime, stories of eruptions were certainly known by early inhabitants. Even animals are curious. Neanderthals could also have rudimentary "religion" where volcanic eruptions were an integral part. Lots of reasons that they would want to wander up there, other than being risky. Many first ascents were accomplished well before modern mountaineering developed. A lot of new research on Neanderthals is showing they were more advanced than first thought. According to 23-andMe, I have 299 Neanderthal variants; whatever that means!