By Amy Woodyatt, CNN

Neanderthal remains believed to belong to some of the last survivors of the species in Europe are thousands of years older than once thought, according to a new study.

Exactly when Neanderthals, our closest ancestors, disappearedin Europe is hotly debated. They are thought to have gone extinct around 40,000 years ago — not long after modern humans migrated out of Africa.

But previous studies of remains found in Belgium’s Spy Cave had placed specimens as recent as around 37,000 years ago — which would have made the owners some of Europe’s latest surviving Neanderthals.

But experts from Belgium, England and Germany suspected that the age of previously analyzed specimens could be unreliable due to contamination.

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