Are Neanderthals still with us?

20 Jan 2012

At details of a modelling experiment has been written up in the December issue of Human Ecology - with some interesting results. Modelling is only as good as the data that is fed into it. In this case, as others, the models may not have exhausted all possible impacts but it does show that Neanderthals could have disappeared not because they were somehow less fit than modern humans, or any other kind of human on the planet during the last Ice Age, but because they were just as smart as the newcomers - if you can follow what that implies. The argument has always been that modern humans were in some way superior to Neanderthals and the latter were unable to adapt. However, recent discoveries have shown that Neanderthals were not as dumb as assumed and they were adaptable. Feeding the model with this new information came up with a rather predictable result, modern humans and Neanderthals must have become mates and Neanderthal physical traits have simply been bred out of modern people. This is quite a different perspective to the politically charged Out of Africa consensus theory in that modern humans are pristine and far superior to other human groups that went before them, all part of the evolutionary march to perfection - or something like that. However, a dash of cold water perhaps. This is just a model - what might be missing from the input? How about catastrophism.