Monday, August 01, 2011

Did the Neandertals Get Swamped?

Well, now it seems that the Neandertals didn't get replaced in Europe, they got swamped. As the story in Science Daily puts it:
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.
This makes sense. Even though modern humans show up on the landscape in the Levant around 100 thousand years ago, there would have been very little reason to go into Europe during the height of the Early Würm glaciation, between 100 and 40 thousand years ago. During the Würm interglacial, between 40 and 34 thousand years ago, though, the corridors would have been open, allowing for a massive influx that would have percolated through Europe over the next ten to fifteen thousand years. Here is the graphic from the Science Daily story.

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