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Neanderthals: Archaeologists dig deeper into the lives of our relatives

Ongoing excavations of the archaeological site l’Abric Romaní will provide greater insight into the life of Neanderthals from 60,000 years ago


12 August 2019 03:44 PM


Oliver Little | Barcelona

The excavation operations of l’Abric Romaní, an archeological site situated 60km west of Barcelona in Capellades, are set to continue throughout the month of August.  Researchers assure that these operations can continue to allow us to develop an understanding of Neanderthal life.

Throughout the month of August, 35 investigators and students will participate in excavations of Level R of the site, 11 metres below the surface. 

Archaeologist and codirector of the operation Eudald Carbonell concedes the improbability of finding Neanderthal remains, something he deems to be the ‘icing on the cake’.  Instead, he remains optimistic that the operation can continue to build on the 10,000 stone tool and animal remains and 500 firepits that have already been found. 

Operations in l’Abric Romanì have been under Carbonell´s direction since 1983, and, following years of excavations in Level Q, where it is believed that Neanderthals lived 40,000 years ago, since 2018 excavations of Level R have been digging up remains from life 60,000 years ago.  However, with a further 40 metres below the surface still unexplored, Carbonell assures that excavations will continue long into the future, and the best findings are yet to come. 

Indeed, the ongoing discovery of tools, animal remains (primarily deer and horses, but also rhinos and elephants) and bonfires allow archeologists to learn more about the Neanderthal´s daily hunting and eating habits. 

Fellow codirector, Palmira Saladié recognizes the unique value of the archeological site, which, according to the investigator of the Catalan Institution of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution, ‘preserves remains so perfectly that it allows us to be able to reimagine their habitats’.  Since 1983, investigators have carried out 37 excavations, in an area of 300m2, a space so great that, for Saladié, it distinguishes l’Abric Romaní from other archeological sites.

It has now been a decade since the first steps in the construction of the Neanderthal Museum in Capellades.  Carbonell had worked together with renowned Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, planning to build a musem that focused on Neanderthal food in order to help us understand our own gastronomical habits.  However, the project remains at a standstill.  Halted by the economic crisis, Saladié laments a lack of funding, but assures that it is still in the works.


  • Aerial view of the excavations of l'Abric Romaní (Photo: Gemma Aleman)

  • Aerial view of the excavations of l'Abric Romaní (Photo: Gemma Aleman)