(ORDO NEWS) — When modern humans came to Europe, Neanderthals had lived there for more than two hundred thousand years. In terms of development, they were almost not inferior to Homo sapiens, and physically they were even stronger. But for some reason the Sapiens won. Recently, anthropologists are finding more and more evidence that humans did not just supplant the Neanderthals. They fought them fiercely for almost a hundred millennia.
Two branches of Homo
The human race split about 650 thousand years ago. One group remained in Africa and developed over time into anatomically modern humans – Homo sapiens. The other moved overland to Europe and Asia. She gave rise to the Neanderthals – Homo neanderthalensis.
About 150 thousand years ago, when Homo sapiens just left Africa, Neanderthals already lived throughout Western Europe. By the time people got there – about 45 thousand years ago – they used sophisticated hunting tools, made clothes from skins, and even created jewelry.
However, after five thousand years, there were practically no Neanderthals in Europe. It is not fully understood how the sapiens ousted the stronger and more adapted to life in the harsh climate of their relatives. There are several hypotheses on this score.
Today, the genomes of most people outside Africa contain two to three percent of Homo neanderthalensis DNA. This means that the subspecies crossed. But the mixtures, most likely, were isolated – that is, the Neanderthals could not simply dissolve among Homo sapiens.
It is believed that they could not withstand the competition for resources – modern people were more technologically advanced and hunted better, moreover, they ran faster – anatomical data indicate this.
Perhaps the decline was facilitated by new parasites and pathogens brought in by humans, to which the Neanderthals did not have immunity. So at one time the American Indians died out: they were literally mowed down by the diseases brought by the conquistadors of the New World.
There is also a hypothesis of inbreeding – degeneration due to closely related mixing. Genetic data indicate that communities of Neanderthals, as a rule, were small, and there was practically no exchange between populations – they preferred a sedentary lifestyle.
According to American geneticists Kelly Harris and Rasmus Nielsen, the mixing was active at first, but the proportion of Homo neanderthalensis genes weakened by inbreeding in mestizos declined with each generation until it reached the current two to three percent.
For a place in the sun
Large predators protect “their” territory, where they hunt and where their offspring feel safe. In our closest primate relatives, territorial conflicts are accompanied by the struggle for leadership within the population – this is how groups are formed under the leadership of alpha males.
Recently, American biologists described violent clashes between mountain gorillas living on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the early 1980s, there were no more than 250 individuals. But after measures were taken to preserve the species, the number increased to 600.
At the beginning of the 2000s, a single population split into groups, between which a struggle began. Repeated censuses of gorillas have shown that one of the subpopulations is growing faster than the others.
Then events took an even more dramatic turn. Young males from the dominant group, hoping to take possession of the female neighbors, killed their partners and offspring. As a result, infant mortality increased by 57 percent and annual population growth slowed.
The researchers noticed: clashes always occur between males from different groups and very rarely – within the same community, regardless of the density of its population.
Scientists have previously presented evidence that wild chimpanzees of the same species form groups that patrol their own territories and raid neighboring ones. Often attacks end in deadly fights, in which dozens of animals die.
So the assertion that wars began with the advent of man does not hold water. This is a much older invention, and, most likely, the Neanderthals were not less fighting spirit than humans.
Everything is like people
Neanderthals in their way of life were very similar to their contemporary Homo sapiens: they also made fire, buried the dead, made jewelry from shells and animal teeth, created drawings and ritual structures, hunted big game – deer, mountain goats, elks, bison, rhinos and mammoths, using spears, and just as easily used weapons against each other.
German anthropologists have found that skull injuries in Neanderthals and people of the Late Paleolithic have the same character. Both subspecies have many forearm fractures, which, according to scientists, formed when repelling blows in battle. And in the Shanidar cave in Iraq, they found the remains of Homo neanderthalensis, pierced in the chest with a spear.
Archaeological evidence confirms that the Neanderthals were not at all peaceful and harmless and hardly ceded territory to people without a fight.
First clashes and protracted war
The earliest evidence of the presence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia is two skulls, 210 and 170 thousand years old, from the Apidyma Cave in southern Greece. Researchers suggest that modern people have repeatedly tried to settle in the Middle East and Southeast Europe, but were rebuffed.
According to scientists, about 125 thousand years ago, people began a “systematic” expansion, settled on the Arabian Peninsula, then, after 50 thousand years, “captured” Hindustan, and about 55 thousand years ago moved through the Middle East to Europe.
At the same time, in the western Black Sea region, they have not yet found finds associated with the Neanderthals younger than 46 thousand years old, in the Iberian Peninsula – younger than 40 thousand years, in Great Britain – 36. In Altai, the latest artifacts date back 24 thousand years.
It turns out that Homo neanderthalensis did not surrender without a fight. And they were not swallowed by another, albeit closely related, species. For about a hundred thousand years, they resisted human expansion.
They fought for the longest time for the Middle East, where they felt very comfortable because of the mild climate and the abundance of animal and plant foods. The first people came there 90 thousand years ago, and the Neanderthals disappeared after 45 thousand years.
Supercomputer confirmed the reason
South Korean scientists at the Center for Climate Physics of the Institute of Basic Sciences in Busan have used a supercomputer to test various hypotheses for the disappearance of Neanderthals in Europe between 43 and 38 thousand years ago.
The mathematical model took into account the migration processes of Homo neanderthalensis and modern humans, their interaction, competition and interbreeding under conditions of changing temperature, rainfall, and the availability of plant and animal food.
The modeling results showed that neither climatic changes, nor inbreeding, nor crossing with Homo sapiens explain the decline of one species and its replacement by another, closely related one, which occurred in such a short period from the point of view of evolutionary history.
More plausible from the point of view of quantitative modeling are the following options: superiority of Homo sapiens in hunting tools and methods, the lack of immunity in Neanderthals to the introduced pathogens, or direct destruction by sapiens.
In any case, scientists have once again confirmed: the root cause of the disappearance of Homo neanderthalensis is the arrival of modern humans in Europe.
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