Neanderthals’ demise caused by modern human invasion
Neanderthals died out in Western Europe after a surge of modern humans arrived from Africa and made them a minority in their own land, researchers claim.
The swarm of Homo sapiens onto the continent more than 40,000 years ago left the Neanderthals, who had thrived in the frigid conditions for 300 millennia, outnumbered by a massive 10 to one.
The invasion of so many modern humans overturned the Neanderthals’ domination of the land and forced them into fierce competition for food, fuel and other crucial resources.
The scenario, described by Paul Mellars, emeritus professor of prehistory and human evolution at Cambridge University, and his colleague, Jennifer French, is the latest attempt by scientists to explain the mystery of the Neanderthals’ demise.
Modern humans, along with environmental factors, have long been suspects in the sudden extinction of our thick-browed relatives, but the nature of their decline is still under debate.
Mellars and French analysed archaeological evidence in Périgord, a former province of southwestern France, which is renowned for its Neanderthal and early human sites. They found that the population of H. sapiens that arrived in the region was at least ten times larger than that of the Neanderthals already settled there.