Menu
Modern science
Soil Microbes Accelerate Global Warming

Bold New Approach to Wind 'Farm' Design May Provide Efficiency Gains

Soft Memory Device Opens Door to New Biocompatible Electronics

Most Elliptical Galaxies Are 'Like Spirals'

New Planets Feature Young Star and Twin Neptunes

Editing the Genome: Scientists Unveil New Tools for Rewriting the Code of Life

High Social Rank Comes at a Price, Wild Baboon Study Finds

Fossil Forensics Reveals How Wasps Populated Rotting Dinosaur Eggs

Monitoring Cellular Interactions at Nano-Scale in More Detail Than Ever Before

Non-Africans Are Part Neanderthal, Genetic Research Shows

Making Blood Sucking Deadly for Mosquitoes

Rising Oceans: Too Late to Turn the Tide?

Newly Developed Fluorescent Protein Makes Internal Organs Visible

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image of Giant Asteroid Vesta

Bacteria Use Batman-Like Grappling Hooks to 'Slingshot' On Surfaces, Study Shows

Mysterious Fossils Provide New Clues to Insect Evolution

Twisted Tale of Our Galaxy's Ring: Strange Kink in Milky Way

Engineering Excitable Cells for Studies of Bioelectricity and Cell Therapy

Ancient Footprints Show Human-Like Walking Began Nearly 4 Million Years Ago

Memories May Skew Visual Perception

Movement of Black Holes Powers Quasars, the Universe's Brightest Lights

First Artificial Neural Network Created out of DNA: Molecular Soup Exhibits Brainlike Behavior

Dolphins' 'Remarkable' Recovery from Injury Offers Important Insights for Human Healing

Cosmological Evolution of Dark Matter Is Similar to That of Visible Matter

Exoplanet Aurora: An Out-Of-This-World Sight

Fall of the Neanderthals: Volume of Modern Humans Infiltrating Europe Cited as Critical Factor
New research sheds light on why, after 300,000 years of domination, European Neanderthals abruptly disappeared. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered that modern humans coming from Africa swarmed the region, arriving with over ten times the population as the Neanderthal inhabitants.

The reasons for the relatively sudden disappearance of the European Neanderthal populations across the continent around 40,000 years ago has for long remained one of the great mysteries of human evolution. After 300 millennia of living, and evidently flourishing, in the cold, sub-glacial environments of central and western Europe, they were rapidly replaced over all areas of the continent by new, anatomically and genetically 'modern' (i.e. Homo sapiens) populations who had originated and evolved in the vastly different tropical environments of Africa.

The most plausible answer to this long-debated question has now been published in the journal Science by two researchers from the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge -- Professor Sir Paul Mellars, Professor Emeritus of Prehistory and Human Evolution, and Jennifer French, a second-year PhD student.

By conducting a detailed statistical analysis of the archaeological evidence from the classic 'Perigord' region of southwestern France, which contains the largest concentration of Neanderthal and early modern human sites in Europe, they have found clear evidence that the earliest modern human populations penetrated the region in at least ten times larger numbers than those of the local Neanderthal populations already established in the same regions. This is reflected in a sharp increase in the total number of occupied sites, much higher densities of occupation residues (i.e. stone tools and animal food remains) in the sites, and bigger areas of occupation in the sites, revealing the formation of much larger and apparently more socially integrated social groupings.

Faced with this dramatic increase in the incoming modern human population, the capacity of the local Neanderthal groups to compete for the same range of living sites, the same range of animal food supplies (principally reindeer, horse, bison and red deer), and the same scarce fuel supplies to tide the groups over the extremely harsh glacial winters, would have been massively undermined. Additionally, almost inevitably, repeated conflicts or confrontations between the two populations would arise for occupation of the most attractive locations and richest food supplies, in which the increased numbers and more highly coordinated activities of the modern human groups would ensure their success over the Neanderthal groups.

The archaeological evidence also strongly suggests that the incoming modern groups possessed superior hunting technologies and equipment (e.g. more effective and long-range hunting spears), and probably more efficient procedures for processing and storing food supplies over the prolonged and exceptionally cold glacial winters. They also appear to have had more wide-ranging social contacts with adjacent human groups to allow for trade and exchange of essential food supplies in times of food scarcity.

Whether the incoming modern human groups also possessed more highly developed brains and associated mental capacities than the Neanderthals remains at present a matter of intense debate. But the sudden appearance of a wide range of complex and sophisticated art forms (including cave paintings), the large-scale production of elaborate decorative items (such as perforated stone and ivory beads, and imported sea shells), and clearly 'symbolic' systems of markings on bone and ivory tools -- all entirely lacking among the preceding Neanderthals -- strongly point to more elaborate systems of social communications among the modern groups, probably accompanied by more advanced and complex forms of language.

All of these new and more complex behavioural patterns can be shown to have developed first among the ancestral African Homo sapiens populations, at least 20,0000 to 30,000 years before their dispersal from Africa, and progressive colonisation (and replacement of earlier populations) across all regions of Europe and Asia from around 60,000 years onwards.

If, as the latest genetic evidence strongly suggests, the African Homo sapiens and European Neanderthal populations had been evolving separately for at least half a million years, then the emergence of some significant contrasts in the mental capacities of the two lineages would not be a particularly surprising development, in evolutionary terms.

Professor Sir Paul Mellars, Professor Emeritus of Prehistory and Human Evolution at the Department of Archaeology, said: "In any event, it was clearly this range of new technological and behavioural innovations which allowed the modern human populations to invade and survive in much larger population numbers than those of the preceding Neanderthals across the whole of the European continent. Faced with this kind of competition, the Neanderthals seem to have retreated initially into more marginal and less attractive regions of the continent and eventually -- within a space of at most a few thousand years -- for their populations to have declined to extinction -- perhaps accelerated further by sudden climatic deterioration across the continent around 40,000 years ago."

Whatever the precise cultural, behavioural and intellectual contrasts between the Neanderthals and intrusive modern human populations, this new study published in Science demonstrates for the first time the massive numerical supremacy of the earliest modern human populations in western Europe, compared with those of the preceding Neanderthals, and thereby largely resolves one of the most controversial and long-running debates over the rapid decline and extinction of the enigmatic Neanderthal populations.

Для печати

New Material Lets Electrons 'Dance' and Form New State

Cod Resurgence in Canadian Waters

Fundamental Matter-Antimatter Symmetry Confirmed

First True View of Global Erosion

NASA's WISE Finds Earth's First 'Trojan' Asteroid

Engineers Fly World's First 'Printed' Aircraft

Scientist Converts Human Skin Cells Into Functional Brain Cells

Rainforest Plant Developed 'Sonar Dish' to Attract Pollinating Bats

Sea Level Rise Less from Greenland, More from Antarctica, Than Expected During Last Interglacial

How Bats Stay On Target Despite the Clutter

Fall of the Neanderthals: Volume of Modern Humans Infiltrating Europe Cited as Critical Factor

Largest-Ever Map of Plant Protein Interactions

Some Plants Duplicate Their DNA to Overcome Adversity

monitor serial port

Menu
Diamonds Pinpoint Start of Colliding Continents

Researchers Identify Seventh and Eighth Bases of DNA

Fool's Gold Gives Scientists Priceless Insight Into Earth's Evolution

Astronomers Discover Largest and Most Distant Reservoir of Water Yet

Major Step Toward Creating Faster Electronics Using Graphene

New Photonic Crystals Have Both Electronic and Optical Properties

Epigenetic 'Memory' Key to Nature Versus Nurture

Climate Change to Increase Yellowstone Wildfires Dramatically

Retinal Cells Thoughts to Be the Same Are Not, Biologist Says

Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas

Mitochondria Share an Ancestor With SAR11, a Globally Significant Marine Microbe

Drug Shown to Improve Sight for Patients With Inherited Blindness

Elliptical Galaxies Are Not Dead

Hubble Constant: A New Way to Measure the Expansion of the Universe

Enceladus Rains Water Onto Saturn

Engineers Develop One-Way Transmission System for Sound Waves

Researchers Graft Olfactory Receptors Onto Nanotubes

New Invisibility Cloak Hides Objects from Human View

Bionic Microrobot Mimics the 'Water Strider' and Walks On Water

How Memory Is Lost: Loss of Memory Due to Aging May Be Reversible

Reservoirs of Ancient Lava Shaped Earth

Wave Power Can Drive Sun's Intense Heat

Social Deficits Associated With Autism, Schizophrenia Induced in Mice With New Technology

Tundra Fires Could Accelerate Climate Warming

Chandra X-Ray Observatory Images Gas Flowing Toward Black Hole