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Cold Spells May Have Doomed Neanderthals

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Gibraltar Neanderthal skullCOLOGNE, GERMANY—According to an Associated Press report, a new study suggests that periods of cold, dry climate may have helped modern humans displace Neanderthals from Europe. Neanderthals died out around 40,000 years ago, just a few thousand years after Homo sapiens arrived in Europe. Scientists have proposed a number of explanations, including an epidemic that targeted Neanderthals and competition for scarce resources. The new study draws on previously available data along with new findings on the ancient climate from two caves in Romania. It focuses on two cold, dry periods: One beginning around 44,000 years ago and lasting 1,000 years, and another beginning around 40,800 years ago and lasting 600 years. Both climate events coincided with the disappearance of Neanderthal artifacts and the appearance of signs of modern humans in sites in the Danube River valley and France. Climate shift would have likely replaced forest with shrub-filled grassland, to which modern humans may have been better adapted than Neanderthals. “Whether they moved or died out, we can’t tell,” said Michael Staubwasser of the University of Cologne in Germany. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

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