Gibraltar 1

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Gibraltar Woman
Neanderthal skull from Forbes' Quarry.jpg
Common name Gibraltar Woman
Species Homo neanderthalensis
Age Unknown
Place discovered Forbes' Quarry, Gibraltar
Date discovered 1848
Discovered by Edmund Flint

Gibraltar 1 is the specimen name of a Neanderthal skull found at Forbes' Quarry in Gibraltar in 1848, by Captain Edmund Flint, a British officer with the Royal Navy. Its discovery predates that of the original Neanderthal discovery but no one realised its importance at the time and it lay forgotten in a cupboard for years. The location and context of this discovery is unclear making specific dating of the skull impossible.

In 19th century science

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Found more than ten years before the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species and eight years prior to the famous discovery in the Neander Valley, the significance of the find was not understood at the time, and the skull was simply labelled as "an ancient human, died before the universal flood" and lay forgotten inside a cupboard at the Garrison Library for many years.[1] After the publication of Origin of Species, a renewed interest in the fossil human remains led to the skull being brought out of obscurity and presented at a meeting in the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1864.[2] Darwin was not present, but the skull was later examined by both Darwin and Thomas Huxley, who concluded the skull was that of an extinct human species. Darwin did however only make fleeting reference to Gibraltar 1 in the 1871 Descent of Man.[3] A cast of the skull can be viewed at the Gibraltar Museum - the original is kept by the Natural History Museum in London.


Front view of the skull in the Natural History Museum, London

The original find was done in a time where the palaeontological dating was still in its infancy, and no stratigraphic information was supplied with the skull, making dating at best guesswork. Another specimen from a different locale on Gibraltar (Gibraltar 2) has however been dated to between 30 thousand to 50 thousand years old.[4] The skull is that of an adult woman, also with typical Neanderthal features.[5] While the skull was one of the first to be found, it was also possibly from one of the last surviving Neanderthal populations.[2]

Gibraltar as a refuge

Side view of the Skull

Until the late twentieth century, it was believed that the last Neanderthals disappeared about 35,000 years ago. However, studies have suggested that Neanderthals survived in southern Spain and Gibraltar to less than 30,000 years before the present. Radiocarbon dating performed on charcoal in Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar in 2006 suggests that Neanderthals lived there 24,000 to 28,000 years ago, well after the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe 40,000 years ago. Vanguard Cave and Gorham's Cave are still the sites of active archaeological excavation in 2012. These caves may have represented the refugium of Gibraltar's Neanderthals.[6]

3D model

Three dimensional model of Gibraltar 1
Video of a 3D model of Gibraltar 1 Neanderthal skull discovered at Forbes' Quarry

See also


  1. ^ "Lower St. Michael's Cave". Visit Gibraltar. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Balter, M. "When Darwin Met a Neandertal". Talk Origins. Science. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Darwin, R.C. 1871: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: John Murray. Volume 1., page 28, 1st edition.
  4. ^ Smith, T. M.; Tafforeau, P.; Reid, D. J.; Pouech, J.; Lazzari, V.; Zermeno, J. P.; Guatelli-Steinberg, D.; Olejniczak, A. J.; Hoffman, A.; Radovcic, J.; Makaremi, M.; Toussaint, M.; Stringer, C.; Hublin, J.-J. (15 November 2010). "Dental evidence for ontogenetic differences between modern humans and Neanderthals". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (49): 20923–20928. doi:10.1073/pnas.1010906107. PMC 3000267Freely accessible. PMID 21078988. 
  5. ^ "The Gibraltar Skull". Nature. 120 (3028): 710–710. 12 November 1927. doi:10.1038/120710a0. 
  6. ^ Rincon, Paul (13 September 2006). "Neanderthals' 'last rock refuge'". BBC News. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
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