Modern humans 'crowded out' Neanderthals

2011-07-29 09:25
Washington - A swell of modern humans outnumbered Neanderthals in Europe by nearly 10 to one, forcing their extinction 40 000 years ago, suggested a study of French archaeology sites on Thursday.

Scientists have long debated what caused the Neanderthals to die off rather suddenly, making way for the thriving population of more advanced Homo sapiens who likely moved in from Africa.

The latest theory, published in the journal Science, is based on a statistical analysis of artefacts and evidence from the Perigord region of southern France, where lies the largest concentration of Neanderthal and early modern human sites in Europe.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge found more sites where modern humans settled, larger settlement areas, greater densities of tools and bigger amounts of animal and food remains, suggesting Neanderthals were crowded out.

Homo sapiens also likely had more elaborate social networks and possibly sharper brains, as evidenced by the stone tools, jewellery and artwork they left behind which was much more advanced than Neanderthal creations.

Large numbers

Their arrival in such large numbers likely forced Neanderthals from their habitual settlements and into places where food and shelter were harder to find, said lead author Paul Mellars of Cambridge University.

"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," he said.

"Faced with this kind of competition, the Neanderthals seem to have retreated initially into more marginal and less attractive regions of the continent."

The last traces of Neanderthals, who had survived on the continent for some 300 000 years, have been uncovered in caves in modern-day Spain and Gibraltar.

Mellars suggested a final deathblow may have been delivered by a harsh cold snap, a theory that has been debated in the scientific community for many years.

The Neanderthals' extinction may have been "accelerated further by sudden climatic deterioration across the continent around 40 000 years ago", he said.
Read more on:    archaeology

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Amazing solar inventions!

Solar power is lighting up the world, and not just on rooftops anymore.



Prince George the green prince?
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa
China's air pollution at doomsday levels
Keep food fresher for longer

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly


There is a tendency to get too caught up in group dynamics and high expectations and ideals, that your own personal needs more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.