Iraqis aren't the only ones relishing recent victories against ISIS. There are also archaeologists who have returned and made new discoveries at a key Neanderthal site in Iraqi Kurdistan, one they describe as having "iconic status in Palaeolithic archaeology." Shanidar Cave's status was established following 1950s excavations by Ralph Solecki, a Smithsonian Institution archaeologist, Live Science reports. As modern-day archaeologists write in Antiquity, he uncovered several Neanderthal burials; the pollen contained in soil samples taken there was in 1975 proposed as evidence of flowers placed at the burials. Some five years ago, the Kurdistan Regional Government suggested archaeologists return to Shanidar. Initial fieldwork began in the summer 2014; interrupted by ISIS, two phases of excavation ultimately occurred in 2015.
Those excavations, which "focused on the location at which the earlier fieldwork discovered most of the Neanderthal remains," yielded human bones (probably from those previously unearthed remains) and other "ephemeral but persistent evidence for human activity," like ash and charcoal, from around 40,000 years ago. "The emerging picture is of small groups making regular short-term visits for shelter and tool maintenance in extreme conditions," the article reads. Live Science points to additional research on the cave: a pollen-focused scientific paper published in December that suggests the pollen in the cave may have actually been carried in by bees, disrupting the notion of burial flowers. (The remains of a 16th-century pirate may have been found under a playground.)