The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture.This is not unheard of in human populations, and it may not have even taken a major change in climate to do this. There was a massive population die-off in the Middle Jomon period in Japan that has, to this day, largely gone unexplained.
The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid. “The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought”, says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.
This information does provide a bit more of an understanding as to why modern humans were able to swamp the Neandertal genome as quickly as they did. It also explains why by around 3o,ooo years ago, you only had scattered Neandertals such as St. Cesaire and Zafarraya. It looks like the whole Neandertal/modern human confluence is just getting more and more fascinating.
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