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Friday 18 July  
Neanderthal may not be the oldest Dutchman
Henk-Sjoerd Oosterhoff's picture
Woerden, Netherlands
Woerden, Netherlands

Neanderthal may not be the oldest Dutchman

Published on : 26 March 2010 - 4:48pm | By Henk-Sjoerd Oosterhoff (Photo: ANP)
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People may well have been roaming the land we now call the Netherlands for far longer than was assumed until recently. There is evidence to suggest that the country was home to the forebears of the Neanderthals. Amateur archaeologist Pieter Stoel found materials used by the oldest inhabitants in the central town of Woerden. These artefacts were shown to be at least 370,000 years old, which takes us back to long before the time of the Neanderthals.

Our ancient forebears are often described as cavemen but that is not entirely accurate. There were no caves in this environment, explains Pieter Stoel:

"No, they cannot be specifically described as cave dwellers. There were no caves here in the Low Countries. They can best be described as people who travelled through the country along the rivers, where they could easily hunt the animals that came to the water to drink. At the time when they possibly roamed the Netherlands, the North Sea was dry, which would have enabled them to walk to England for example."

Pieter Stoel is an amateur archaeologist. For 14 years, he has conducted research in his spare time, alongside his day job as high school physics and chemistry teacher. But next year he intends to leave the classroom behind him and focus completely on his research. He describes the find in Woerden as unique.

"It consists of splinters and cores of flint. There are no hand axes, as they were not used by this culture. These items were sucked out of a sump pit at a depth of between 27 and 36 metres."

Research institute TNO has studied the layers of soil and determined the age of the objects raised during the dredging work. The remarkable conclusion is that they are at least 370,000 years old.

"That’s a record. They may even be up to 600,000 years old, but that’s something we have yet to prove."

Follow-up research is needed to show whether the artefacts actually come from the layers at the bottom of the pit or whether they were shifted by the dredging work. A layer by layer study is now being carried out to see which artefacts are located where.

"We are still awaiting conclusive evidence."

Rewriting history
A similar find has already been made in the British town of Pakefield. This makes sense given that Pakefield and Woerden are only 225 kilometres apart as the crow flies. During that period, the two countries were not separated by the sea. It could well be that the forebears of the Neanderthals walked from Woerden to Pakefield.

"It was a pleasant enough climate and all they had to do was follow the Meuse and the Rhine."

Pieter Stoel’s discovery may end up rewriting history. Until now, the assumption was that the ancestors of the Dutch walked from France to England and only arrived in the Netherlands at a later date. But the archaeologist now thinks the opposite might be just as plausible.

"There may even have been various migration flows. There may well have been people who made hand axes and who migrated from France to England. But it is also plausible that people whose culture did not include the hand axe arrived in England from Europe, via Germany and the Netherlands."

Homo sapiens
Pieter Stoel stops short of concluding that the British are therefore descended from the Dutch. It could be the case, but all things are relative. The archaeologist is quick to add that we - homo sapiens- ultimately originate from Africa.


Neanderthal-Aryan 13 March 2012 - 7:15pm / Canada

Homo Heidelburgensis 600,000 and 400,000 Years ago Are The precursor to Neanderthal 400,000-30,000?? and this discovery falls well within that Range,Heidleburgensis may have come out of Africa but was not African looking as he was evolving on a separate line that would lead to Neanderthal man who has been shown To carry not only the Foxp2 gene for language but also genes for Red hair and pale skin. Are we to keep believing in this Racist out of Africa theory or will we embrace the fact that Early cro-magnon had a high percetage of Neanderthal DNA as well as skeletal traits, The truth is quite simple Homo-Erectus left Africa a long time ago evolved into Homo-Heidleburgensis in Europe who in turn Evolved into White Neanderthal man who Was nomadic and interbred to become Cro-magnon a Neanderthal Hybrid and civilized cultures all across the globe also known as the Indo-Aryans

tom7 22 July 2010 - 12:26am

good post!!!!!!!

Will 31 March 2010 - 5:19am / USA

The "out of Africa" theory seems fairly irrelevant when the evidence indicates that homo sapiens were in Europe as early as 370,000 to 600,000 years ago. That's a lot of time to evolve independent of any common ancestors in Africa. I didn't realize the evidence now pointed to a presence in Europe that far back.

Hobbit 1 April 2010 - 1:16pm / UK

Will, did you read the text? "Pre-Neanderthal" means it wasn't Homo sapiens, but an earlier hominin.

Will 4 April 2010 - 11:03pm / USA

The article is certainly confusing enough. The ancient subjects of the article are referred to as "people" and "our ancient forebears" and "the ancestors of the Dutch" as if the entire discussion is about the ancient ancestors of Western Europeans. It reads as if they are assuming that the Neanderthals are the ancestors of the Europeans, though I know the anthropologists have gone back and forth on that. It's not totally clear what they are assuming.

Amazed 29 March 2010 - 8:31pm / USA

Not a theory anymore all, have you seen the latest genome studies? We do come from Africa, like it or not, including those w/ "Aryan" blod. Do you know where the Aryans come from??/ Not Europe:
In the 18th century, the most ancient known Indo-European languages were those of the Indo-Iranians' ancestors.
The word Aryan was adopted to refer not only to the Indo-Iranian people, but also to native Indo-European speakers as a whole, including the Albanians, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Latins, and Germans

So much for racial purity, but you knew that right? Two Bachelor degrees and a Doctorate... Of course you did Mr Racial Purity Guy, You are very well educated...

Anonymous 27 March 2010 - 9:31am / USA

Human Genomics = "this area" The Dmanisi Georgia fossils of human-like "hominins" is always an inconvenient truth to the proving of "out of africa." As any one with a background in statistics can atest to you skew any data to prove what you want. All I am pointing out is that to blindly jump on an ideology with obvious political implications breeds a certain degree of intellectual laziness and your lack of questioning of such notions and motivations begs the question of whether you would qualify as an objective observer for this particular question. If you cannot effectively argue for opposing views how can you be certain you truly believe in what you say you believe in, or is dogma an ok ideology for you? Dogmatism leads to in\gnorance and ignorance leads to violence!! Always question never buy into the mainstream without doubt. "cogito, ergo sum"

HeavyDuty 27 March 2010 - 9:02am

How does one get a doctorate without knowing that a hypothesis is in the process of being proved. A theory can (in this case, does) have plenty of proof, but lacks a verifiable, objective, eyewitness account.

There are more than sufficient skeletal remains, and a burgeoning collection of genetic evidence, that will add to the proof, or not. Denial ain't gonna change a thing.

Define, "this area."

Anonymous 27 March 2010 - 6:29am / USA

The out of Africa theory is absurd, you can't get a white person by mixing blacks together. Why do scientist have to try to prove we are related? We are not related! We donot need to be related for us to show common human rights to one another though. Just don't tell me that I am the descendent of some african!

Janv 4 April 2010 - 2:58am / canada

Hey "anonymous", TRY reading "The Real Eve" by Stephen Oppenheimer. Your ignorance is evident in your comments. If for example 100 people are isolated, some phyical characteristics will become dominant.

Kimmy 29 March 2010 - 10:03pm / USA

Anonymous, just because our earliest human ancestor came from Africa does not mean that ancestor was black. Many Africans today are black, but none of them are our ancestors--they are our contemporaries. We share with them a common ancestor, but no one knows what color skin those first humans had, although the current assumption is a brown skin.

Homini 27 March 2010 - 5:30pm / Egypt

Learn arithmetic please. You know or have heard, two plus two is four, four plus four is eight, etc., etc. Now, count your ancestors. You had 1 trillion in the last 1,000 years alone.
So, not one was from Africa, eh?

How can anyone be that ignorant in this century?

proteusdecision 27 March 2010 - 8:02am / USA

You sound as though you are descended from a moron. Racial types as we know them today did not exist in the same way in the past. Do some reading and get with the 21st century!

Anonymous 27 March 2010 - 8:09am / Usa

No I am a descendent of an Aryan blood line. I have 2 4 year degrees a doctorate and post grad education in this area and there is no evidence to corroborate the "Out of Africa Theory," Hence its being called a "THEORY"

Janv 4 April 2010 - 3:00am / canada

The Pope has a few degrees as well and he is a complete moron!

Anonymous 28 March 2010 - 7:26am / Canada

Do you have a lawyer? If so, sue your school for malpractice, you obviously got those degrees erroneously. Gravity is just a theory too, do you doubt it? Relativity is a theory - do you doubt it? Sheesh. If you have a better theory to explain the massed evidence for Out of Africa, please do tell - maybe get it published in The Onion.

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