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They were the result of deliberately applied heat, at intensities strong enough to occasionally crack the rock.“The Neanderthal group responsible for these constructions had a level of social organization that was more complex than previously thought,” the team writes.
Indeed, despite some fanciful speculations about cave bear cults, no one really knows.
On one side were old minerals that were part of the original stalagmites; on the other were newer layers that had been laid down the fragments were broken off by the cave’s former users.
By measuring uranium levels on either side of the divide, the team could accurately tell when each stalagmite had been snapped off for construction. 176,500 years ago, give or take a few millennia.“When I announced the age to Jacques, he asked me to repeat it because it was so incredible,” says Verheyden.
“I’m not very big, and I had to put one arm before me and one behind to get through,” says Verheyden.
“It’s kind of magical, even without the structures.”After drilling into the stalagmites and pulling out cylinders of rock, the team could see an obvious transition between two layers.