Cro-Magnon man

Cro-Magnon man

Cro-Magnon man, an early Homo sapiens (the species to which modern humans belong) that lived about 40,000 years ago. Skeletal remains and associated artifacts of the of the Aurignacian culture were first found in 1868 in Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France. Later discoveries were made in a number of caverns in the Dordogne valley, Solutré, and in Spain, Germany, and central Europe. Cro-Magnon man was anatomically identical to modern humans, but differed significantly from Neanderthals (see Neanderthal man), who disappear in the fossil about 10,000 years after the appearance of Aurignacian and other upper Paleolithic populations (e.g. the Perigordian culture). The abrupt disappearance of Neanderthal populations and the associated Mousterian technologies, the sudden appearance of modern Homo sapiens (who had arisen earlier in Africa and migrated to Europe) and the associated upper Paleolithic technologies, and the absence of transitional anatomical or technological forms have led most researchers to conclude that Neanderthals were driven to extinction through competition with Cro-Magnon or related populations. Greater linguistic competence and cultural sophistication are often suggested as characteristics tilting the competitive balance in favor of upper Paleolithic groups. Finely crafted stone and bone tools, shell and ivory jewelry, and polychrome paintings found on cave walls all testify to the cultural advancement of Cro-Magnon man. See human evolution.

Cro-Magnon (French ) is one of the main types of Homo sapiens of the European Upper Paleolithic, living approximately 40,000 to 10,000 years ago. It is named after the cave of Crô-Magnon in southwest France, where the first specimen was found.

The term falls outside the usual naming conventions for early humans and is used in a general sense to describe the oldest modern people in Europe, though also a specific (but very frequent) subtype among their fossil remains. In recent scientific literature the term "early modern humans" is used instead.

The oldest definitely dated specimen of is from 34,000–36,000 years ago.


The geologist Louis Lartet discovered the first five skeletons in March 1868 in the Cro-Magnon rock shelter at Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France. The rock shelter contained a large cavity which protected the fossils. The type specimen from this find is Cro-Magnon 1. The skeletons showed the same high forehead, upright posture and slender (gracile) skeleton as modern humans. Other specimens have since come to light in other parts of Europe and in the Middle East. The European individuals probably descended from an East African origin via South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and even North Africa from a genetic perspective (cromagnoid populations of Mechta El Arbi and Afalou bou Rummel).

The condition and placement of the remains along with pieces of shell and animal tooth in what appears to have been pendants or necklaces raises the question whether or not they were buried intentionally. If Cro-Magnons buried their dead intentionally it suggests they had a knowledge of ritual, by burying their dead with necklaces and tools, or an idea of disease and that the bodies needed to be contained.

Analysis of the pathology of the skeletons shows that the humans of this time period led a physically difficult life. In addition to infection, several of the individuals found at the shelter had fused vertebrae in their necks indicating traumatic injury, and the adult female found at the shelter had survived for some time with a skull fracture. As these injuries would be life threatening even today, this may show that Cro-Magnons believed in community support and took care of each others' injuries.

Cro-Magnon life

Cro-Magnons lived from about 45,000 to 10,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic period of the Pleistocene epoch. Cro-Magnon were anatomically modern, only differing from their modern day descendants in Europe by their more robust physiology and slightly larger cranial capacity. Of modern nationalities, Finns are closest to Cro-Magnons in terms of anthropological measurements.

Surviving Cro-Magnon artifacts include huts, cave paintings, carvings and antler-tipped spears. The remains of tools suggest that they knew how to make woven clothing. They had huts, constructed of rocks, clay, bones, branches, and animal hide/fur. These early humans used manganese and iron oxides to paint pictures and may have created the first calendar around 15,000 years ago.

The flint tools found in association with the remains at Cro-Magnon have associations with the Aurignacian culture that Lartet had identified a few years before he found the skeletons.

The Cro-Magnons must have come into contact with the Neanderthals, and are often credited with causing the latter's extinction, although morphologically modern humans seem to have coexisted with Neanderthals for up to 60,000 years in the Levant and for more than 15,000 years in France.


The "Cro-Magnon" rock shelter, located at Les Eyzies in the Dordogne in France, probably owes its name to a compound of two elements:

  • Cro is presumably a dialectal form of creux, meaning "cavity" or "hollow"; such forms as crau, cro, crouè are found in French dialects, and all probably derive, through Vulgar Latin *crosus (not attested), from a Celtic root.
  • Magnon is almost certainly the augmentative form of the Old French adjective magne, from Latin magnus, meaning "large" or "great" and ultimately deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root * (related to English much).

Thus, the probable original meaning is "great cavity".

According to information on display in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, however, Magnon was simply the name of the proprietor who owned the land on which the cave is located when Lartet made his discovery in 1868.


A 2003 study on Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA, published by an Italo-Spanish research team led by David Caramelli, concluded that Neanderthals were far outside the modern human range, while Cro-Magnons were well in the average of modern Europeans. mtDNA retrieved from two Cro-Magnon specimens was identified as Haplogroup N. Haplogroup N is found among modern populations of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, and its descendant haplogroups are found among modern Eurasian and Native American populations. also


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