Scientists have found out how long it took modern humans to exterminate Neanderthals

(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeological finds in Europe long ago forced researchers to suggest that in some regions our ancestors, who left Africa 70 thousand years ago, lived side by side with Neanderthals.

And the neighborhood continued for five to six thousand years. Perhaps the Neanderthals were dealt with in a much shorter time.

According to modern estimates, the genetic paths of the two representatives of the genus Homo diverged approximately 650 thousand years ago.

The ancestors of modern humans ( Homo sapiens ) lived in Africa, and the ancestors of Neanderthals ( Homo neanderthalensis ) lived in the north – in Europe and Asia.

About 210 thousand years ago, our black ancestors went north: this is how they dated the skull of the most ancient European sapiens (or mestizo with Neanderthal), found in Greece.

But then something stopped them: all the descendants of this group died, leaving no trace in the genes of modern people.

Most likely, they were simply exterminated by the Neanderthals, who, judging by some findings, were more advanced than their distant relatives.

Scientists have found out how long it took modern humans to exterminate Neanderthals 2
Stone knives believed to have been made by the last Neanderthals in present-day France and northern Spain

After 140 thousand years, people again gathered to leave Africa. And this time everything went better.

First, they brought with them technology that the Neanderthals did not know about, which greatly helped Homo sapiens in winning their place under the sun of the North.

Secondly, they interbred with Neanderthals.

We said that in the Middle East this happened more often than in Europe – this is precisely what scientists explain by more, compared to modern Europeans, the number of Neanderthal genes in modern Asians.

Part of the sapiens went east, but many remained in Europe, where they forced out the Neanderthals (however, how exactly this happened is still debatable).

Archaeological excavations in the territories of modern Spain and France have brought evidence that two species of Homo lived in the same places and even at about the same time.

But it is not entirely clear how long this coexistence lasted – or how long it took our ancestor to exterminate relatives.

A paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports , the authors of which tried to answer this question.

They analyzed a dataset of 56 Neanderthal and modern human artifacts (28 for each group) from 17 archaeological sites in France and northern Spain.

The researchers also studied ten more samples of the remains of Neanderthals from the same region.

The ratio of the finds to one or another type of people was determined earlier.

The first group included artifacts of the Chatelperon archaeological culture (Neanderthals), and the second group included tools of the proto-Aurignacian culture, which is associated with the Cro-Magnons.

For greater accuracy, all samples were again dated by the radiocarbon method.

The researchers put the results into the model and, using the method of optimal linear estimation and Bayesian statistics, determined the estimated range of the earliest and latest dates when Neanderthals and modern humans appeared and (in the case of Neanderthals) disappeared from these places.

Scientists have found out how long it took modern humans to exterminate Neanderthals 3
The map shows the places of finds of dated artifacts of Chatelperon (gray circles), Proto-Aurignac (white squares) and the remains of Neanderthals (black skulls)

The authors found that Neanderthal artifacts appeared in the region 44,248 to 45,343 years ago and disappeared between 39,894 and 39,798 years ago.

The date of extinction of the Neanderthals, based on the analysis of their remains, is from 40,870 to 40,457 years ago.

But modern humans first appeared in these regions between 42,653 and 42,269 years ago. It turns out that two types of people coexisted there from 1400 to 2800 years.

This is a very narrow interval: previously, the duration of the European neighborhood of two species of the genus Homo was estimated at five to six thousand years.

But it turns out that our ancestors turned out to be more energetic than scientists thought, and ousted their fair-skinned northern relatives at least two (or even three) times faster.

To confirm these conclusions, it is desirable to subject all other samples from Europe of that time to the same analysis.

But the results already obtained are very interesting. We can confidently say that at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens coexisted, but not for long. The exact nature of this coexistence remains to be seen.


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