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Fwd: [evol-psych] 'Tragic end' for Neanderthals

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  • Anne Gilbert
    All: Here is still another story regarding the Neandertal/modern interstratification find. Reading this may make some of you sigh. Sorry aboutt the length.
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2005

      Here is still another story regarding the "Neandertal/modern" interstratification find. Reading this may make some of you sigh. Sorry aboutt the length. I couldn't get the thing to "cut and paste" the link.

      Anne G

      'Tragic end' for Neanderthals
      01/09/2005 10:41 - (SA)

      Richard Ingham

      Paris - New evidence has emerged that Neanderthals co-existed
      with anatomically modern humans for at least a thousand years in
      central France, a finding that suggests these enigmatic hominids
      came to a tragic and lingering end.

      Few chapters in the rise of Homo sapiens sapiens, as modern
      mankind is known, have triggered as much debate as the fate of
      the Neanderthals.

      Smaller and squatter than H sapiens but with larger brains,
      Neanderthals lived in Europe, parts of Central Asia and the
      Middle East for around 170 000 years.

      But vestiges of the Neanderthals stop around 28 000-30 000 years

      At that point, H sapiens, a smart, ascendant sub-species of
      humans originating in East Africa, became the undisputed master
      of the planet.

      So whatever happened to the Neanderthals?

      One intriguing school of thought is that the Neanderthals did
      not suddenly disappear off the map but in fact gradually melded
      in with H sapiens, culturally - and possibly sexually.

      Interbreeding resulted, meaning that what we, today, supposedly
      carry some of the genetic legacy of the Neanderthals.

      But a new study delivers a blow to this Disneyesque storyline.

      It shows that the two hominids did indeed co-exist for a long
      time, but there is no evidence of any intermingling.

      Indeed, it points to the likelihood that the Neanderthals
      petered out, their lineage sadly expiring in starvation and
      Ice-Age cold.

      Paul Mellars, a professor of prehistory and human evolution at
      the University of Cambridge, and colleagues dated bone fossils
      preserved by French archaeologists who carefully excavated
      layers of soil at a site called "la Grotte aux Fees" (the Fairy

      The cave, located at Chatelperron between the valleys of the
      Loire and Allier, is already famous as a Neanderthal habitat.

      But what makes the site especially interesting is that bone
      artefacts and flints bearing the typical hallmarks of
      prehistoric H sapiens were also found there.

      Mellars' team applied the modern tool of radiocarbon dating to
      get a precise idea of the age of the bone tools and compared
      these to the soil layers in which they were found and knowledge
      of the climate that prevailed at the time.

      What they found: Neanderthals lived in the cave between roughly
      40 000 and 38 000 years ago, when the climate was, for the last
      Ice Age, relatively balmy.

      Then came a sudden and prolonged cold snap, when the temperature
      dropped and Homo sapiens - apparently migrating southwards in
      search of warmer climes - inhabited the cave for about 1 000-1
      500 years.

      Thereafter, the climate slighly warmed again.

      At that point, H sapiens moved out and the Neanderthals
      returned, staying for a period that went from about 36 500 years
      ago to 35 000 years ago. After that, there is no more sign of

      "This is the first categorical proof that Neanderthals and
      modern human beings did overlap in France for more than a
      thousand years," Mellars said.

      And, he added, it was also convincing evidence of the
      Neanderthals' vulnerability to climate change and to the rise of
      smarter, more adaptable rivals.


      Ian Pitchford PhD CBiol MIBiol

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