Neanderthals overrun by early humans
Neanderthals in Europe died out because they were overrun by hordes of modern humans from Africa who flooded into the region 40,000 years ago, scientists have claimed.
The Homo sapiens arrived in swarms that outnumbered the Neanderthals by at least ten to one, putting the natives at a massive disadvantage in competition for food, fuel and shelter.
Modern humans would also have been likely to triumph in any conflicts between the two species because of their larger and more coordinated social groups, researchers said.
The explanation could solve the mystery of why Neanderthals were unable to compete with modern humans despite having flourished in the icy landscape of central and western Europe for the previous 300,000 years.
A study of archaeological evidence from a large concentration of Neanderthal and early modern human sites in the south-west of France showed for the first time that the earliest modern human populations must have arrived in far greater numbers than native groups.
Scientists from Cambridge University noticed a sudden increase in the number and size of occupied sites, as well as relics like tools and animal food remains, which suggested modern humans lived in much larger and more Writing in the Science journal, the researchers said humans also had more sophisticated hunting equipment, better means of storing and preserving food through the long, freezing winters, and better trade links with neighbouring communities.
Experts are divided over whether modern humans had more developed brains than Neanderthals, but it is thought they had more sophisticated forms of language.
Professor Sir Paul Mellars, who led the study, said: “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.”
integrated social groups.