Fwd: [evol-psych] 'Tragic end' for Neanderthals
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.
'Tragic end' for Neanderthals
01/09/2005 10:41 - (SA)
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
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
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
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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