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Homo sapiens - not the ice age, killed the Neanderthals

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 24th, 2012
Catholic Online (

The recent news coming from scientists seems to confirm suspicions about "social Darwinism." Modern man or homo sapiens outperformed, out-maneuvered and outright slaughtered the less advanced Neanderthals. A study of volcanic ash suggests that it was this factor, and not the ice age, that led to the extinction of this forerunner of humanity.

LOS ANGLES, CA (Catholic Online) - New evidence suggests that these distant cousins of humans had already started to decline long before a massive volcanic eruption plunged Europe into ice.

Climate was not the major factor in the Neanderthals' demise, indicated by a study of volcanic ash layers. Scientists say it is more likely Neanderthals were simply out-performed by early members of our species, Homo sapiens, who had migrated from Africa.

Neanderthals could not compete for natural resources with early modern humans, who had better tools, weapons and communication skills.

There are still those who believe that climate played a major role in their extinction.

Europe's biggest ever volcanic eruption, a catastrophic event around 40,000 years ago, may have sent temperatures plummeting as clouds of ash blocked out the sun.

This "volcanic winter" caused by the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption in Italy, coming on top of a cold climate episode, marked the beginning of the end for the Neanderthals. Volcanic deposits from the CI eruption, consisting of tiny glass particles, were found in Greece, Libya and Central Europe.

After a series of further cold intervals, Neanderthals had virtually disappeared from Europe.

Fragments helped scientists to time the eruption accurately, and synchronize archaeological and prehistoric climate records. Fossil and archaeological evidence of the Neanderthals had started to diminish long before the eruption along with subsequent episodes of severe climate change.

Early modern humans had already established widespread and diverse occupations in Eastern Europe and North Africa, 40,000 years ago, scientists say.

Both Neanderthals and early modern humans "seem to have been more resilient to environmental crises than previously supposed.

"Neanderthal extinction in Europe was not associated with the CI eruption," researchers from an international team led by Professor John Lowe from Royal Holloway, University of London say.

"Our evidence indicates that, on a continental scale, modern humans were a greater competitive threat to indigenous populations than the largest known volcanic eruption in Europe, even if combined with the deleterious effects of climate cooling.

"We propose that small population numbers and high mobility may have initially saved the Neanderthals, but that they were ultimate out-performed in this capacity by AMHs (anatomically modern humans)."


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