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2020-07-10 16:58:51   •   ID: 2205

The Extinction of the Neanderthals

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The convergent, Mousterian, non-Levallois scraper, shown in Figure 1-3 is certainly the product of Neanderthals. It could have been part of a Quina ensemble.

150 years of Paleolithic Archaeologogy have shown that the European Mousterian was invariably linked with (Pre) Neanderthals between 300-35 k.a. Cal BP. The Aurignacian on the other hand was certainly an early emanation of AHM-culture.

The scraper was found near the village of Salignac-Eyvigues, a small french village located in the Perigord in S/W-France, near the "Capital" of Paleolithic Prehistory at les Eyzies.

During MIS3 and just before their extinction the Perigord was one important refugium of Neanderthals during the rapidly varying climatic environment of the last Glacial.

The Timing of Neanderthal Disappearance: The disappearance of Neanderthal in Europe and the advent of first AHMs on the continent does not seem to be a pure coincidence. Anyhow most importantly there is little evidence for a direct war-like competition between Neanderthals and AMH.

Using data sets from different regions in Europe and advanced C-14 dating methods Hingham et al found that: The Mousterian ended by 41,030–39,260 calibrated years BP (at 95.4% probability) across Europe. We also demonstrate that succeeding ‘transitional’ archaeological industries, one of which has been linked with Neanderthals (Châtelperronian), end at a similar time.

Our data indicate that the disappearance of Neanderthals occurred at different times in different regions. Comparing the data with results obtained from the earliest dated AMH sites in Europe, associated with the Uluzzian technocomplex, allows us to quantify the temporal overlap between the two human groups. The results reveal a significant overlap of 2,600–5,400 years (at 95.4% probability).

This has important implications for models seeking to explain the cultural, technological and biological elements involved in the replacement of Neanderthals by AMHs. A mosaic of populations in Europe during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition suggests that there was ample time for the transmission of cultural and symbolic behaviors, as well as possible genetic exchanges, between the two groups
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I doubt if 2,6-5,4 k.a. were really a long time during MIS3 to allow an intensive interaction between Neanderthals and AHMs if one considers the low population density and the multiple geological, sociological and maybe behavioral barriers between the two groups.

Other models even suggest, that the Neanderthals had already disappeared from Eurasia, at least from Central/West Europe when AHMs immigrated. Late Mousterian strata are often separated from Upper Paleolithic ones by sterile layers.

Genetic data indicate, that genetic variability was lower in Neanderthals than in early AHMs, although global group sizes may have not have been very different. Suggesting that Neanderthals lived in smaller and dispersed groups compared to Homo sapiens and were characterised by a shrinkage of their genetic pool- these were bad conditions for their survival.

What triggered the Demise of Neanderthals?: Here we certainly talk about a multifactorial process, that was weighted differently by region and specific circumstances

  • External factors, such as unstable climatic conditions- especially during the repeated extremely cold and dry climate around 50-40 k.a., sudden natural disasters like the Campagnian Ingebrit eruption at ca 40 k.a. CalBP, plagues brought to Europe from Africa by AHMs and their transmission to non-immune Neanderthals.

    Niche-Modelling and environmental data during MIS 4, recently published by Banks et al. 2021, clearly indicate dramatic shrinking of ecological niches even in S/W- France, but also more preferable conditions for the Neanderthals in some limited areas, Archaeologically characterised by Quina ensembles


  • Internal Factors like a different resilience to climatic conditions, different birth rates, small Neanderthal group sizes with consequences for cultural transmission, reduced fitness of Neanderthal descendants from a reduced genetic pool, different genetic configurations, differences in effective exploiting food resources, differences in technical equipment both in hunting pray and coping with the cold




Discussing these issues in depth is not the aim of this post- but you will find important papers about the topic in the extensive external links.