Interbreeding - and not lack of intelligence, killed the Neanderthals, scientists say
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/30/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Anthropologists had previously theorized that Neanderthals died out because they were mentally, technologically and culturally inferior to the ascending Homo Sapiens and were unable to compete for limited resources. New theories suggest it's more likely that they disappeared 40,000 years ago on account of interbreeding and assimilation with our early modern human ancestors.
New evidence proves that Neanderthals made effective tools and weapons, wore ornaments such as eagle claws, used ochre and pitch, ate plants and fish as well as big game and created organized living spaces in their caves - all of this happening before the arrival of modern humans.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Neanderthals are often thought of as dim-witted evolutionary losers. New archaeological evidence dating back 200,000 years now reveals that this breed of human was far more advanced and sophisticated than has widely been thought.
U.S. and Dutch researchers say the differences between the two human sub-species are not enough to account for the demise of the Neanderthals.
Dr. Paola Villa, from the University of Colorado Museum along with Professor Wil Roebroeks, from Leiden University say that "Genetic studies now suggest that the debate on the demise of the Neanderthals needs to be reframed in terms of some degree of interbreeding.
"In that sense, Neanderthals did not go extinct, even though their distinctive morphology did disappear.
"We conclude that all the 'archaeology-based' explanations for the demise of the Neanderthals... are flawed."
Neanderthals thrived in Eurasia for 300,000 years. They vanished around 40,000 years ago as early modern humans began to settle in Europe.
New evidence proves that Neanderthals made effective tools and weapons, wore ornaments such as eagle claws, used ochre and pitch, ate plants and fish as well as big game and created organized living spaces in their caves - all of this happening before the arrival of modern humans. In conclusion, these behaviors could not have been copied from them.
Scientists also pointed out that 200,000 years ago, Neanderthals were using fire to produce pitch from tree bark.
Experiments showed that the process required high temperatures and an oxygen-free environment such as an enclosed pot, suggesting a high level of technical knowledge.
When did the Neanderthals stumble and fall? Neanderthal DNA sequenced in 2010 shows clear evidence of interbreeding. Neanderthals and early modern humans are most likely to have interbred in Europe and the Middle East around 50,000 years ago.
Neanderthal inheritance is estimated to make up between one percent and four percent of the DNA of people outside of the African continent.
Interbreeding could be one reason why Neanderthals vanished. They were not so much driven to extinction as assimilated.
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