Credit: Dora Kemp
The migration of humans into Europe was a swarm. We may have outnumbered Neanderthals 10 to 1.
ScienceDaily — New research sheds light on why, after 300,000 years of domination, European Neanderthals abruptly disappeared. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered that modern humans coming from Africa swarmed the region, arriving with over ten times the population as the Neanderthal inhabitants.
The reasons for the relatively sudden disappearance of the European Neanderthal populations across the continent around 40,000 years ago has for long remained one of the great mysteries of human evolution. After 300 millennia of living, and evidently flourishing, in the cold, sub-glacial environments of central and western Europe, they were rapidly replaced over all areas of the continent by new, anatomically and genetically 'modern' (i.e. Homo sapiens) populations who had originated and evolved in the vastly different tropical environments of Africa.
The most plausible answer to this long-debated question has now been published in the journal Science by two researchers from the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge -- Professor Sir Paul Mellars, Professor Emeritus of Prehistory and Human Evolution, and Jennifer French, a second-year PhD student.
By conducting a detailed statistical analysis of the archaeological evidence from the classic 'Perigord' region of southwestern France, which contains the largest concentration of Neanderthal and early modern human sites in Europe, they have found clear evidence that the earliest modern human populations penetrated the region in at least ten times larger numbers than those of the local Neanderthal populations already established in the same regions. This is reflected in a sharp increase in the total number of occupied sites, much higher densities of occupation residues (i.e. stone tools and animal food remains) in the sites, and bigger areas of occupation in the sites, revealing the formation of much larger and apparently more socially integrated social groupings. Keep on reading...