At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150320112332.htm … we have 'did a volcanic cataclysm 40,000 years ago, trigger the final demise of the Neanderthals?' – which is a paper just published in the journal Geology, already mentioned I think, in a preview edition, some weeks past, but now in its final format. At last they are mentioning a catastrophic event around 40,000 years ago after years of ignoring it. Richard Firestone et al have written about it and Paul la Violette, but they are not regarded as mainstream – or the idea of a catastrophe is not mainstream. However, it is only halfway there as they have made a link not with a cosmic catastrophe but with what is known to geologists as the Campanian Ignumbrite eruption in Italy, a large volcanic event that must have ejected a significant amount of sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. They do not speculate on what might have prompted the Campanian Ignumbrite event – only that it occurred.
Okay, so a cosmic catastrophe could have been behind the volcanic event – is that all. I'm afraid you will have to read Firestone et al 'The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes' in order to get a handle on what might have happened.
Another pointer to a major cosmic event at that time is the C14 plateau. It is such a big problem it has presented a barrier to using C14 as a medium of dating any further back in time. It is also not clear if there was one or two events – separated by a few thousand years. Bayesian methodology has recently tried to get around the problem plateau – with mixed results. The plateau is one of the reasons, very often left unsaid, that dating the demise of the Neanderthals is inconsistent. The authors of this paper also fall into the same trap, accepting C14 dates as factual when that can't be so if the plateau is so big (possibly spanning a twin event). In spite of that the conclusions are not definite – and that is how it should remain for the moment. There is evidence of Neanderthals both before and after the Campanian Ignumbrite – and also evidence of the presence of modern humans both before and after. They had no choice in taking a neutral stand on the issue although they must have hoped they had found the smoking gun responsible for the demise of the Neanderthals. In other words, a massive injection of C14 into the atmosphere has made dating unreliable.
Did Neanderthals become extinct? Well, Europeans and people from western Asia appear to have inherited a vestige of Neanderthal genes so this can't wholly be true. We also do not know for sure how long it would take for Neanderthal genes to wash out and leave just that kind of vestige. Genetics is a fairly new science and no doubt some ideas will be discarded and others polished and honed over time. All the evidence seems to show that what we call modern humans migrated rapidly out of central Eurasia and western Asia in a fairly rapid fashion. If Neanderthal numbers had been severely depleted by catastrophic events this may account for their so called demise – which would not be an actual demise if they survived in small numbers (as some anthropologists seem to think). The catastrophic event would also explain the migration – as it would have affected the former homeland of the newcomers as well.
The Geology paper says there was a significant and abrupt cold spell in the aftermath of the Campanian Ignumbrite event. This is reminiscent of the cold spell that followed the Younger Dryas Boundary event 13,000 years ago (and other events). Therefore we have a pattern – a pattern consistent with a series of cosmic catastrophes as the same thing happened (to a lesser degree) 8000 years ago, 5000 years ago, and 4300 years ago, and again at 3200 years ago (mainstream dates) – and even possibly 1500 years ago (and at various intermediary dates on a lesser scale). All this is vaguely consistent with the general Clube and Napier scenario of comets and dust trails left behind by outgassing as they approached the Sun and then moved away again. Other scenarios have been broached such as hyper activity on the Sun, and even rogue planets. La Violette favoured supernovas and heavy bombardment of cosmic radiation. Take your pick. Thunderbolts have devised a scenario peculiar to themselves involving the planet Saturn. All we really can say is there is evidence that something unusual was going on, it was periodic, and it had a cosmic dimension.
The story is also at http://phys.org/print346075336.html … together with the image on the left. It also pops up at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/03/21/did-volcanic-induced-climate-chang… … which follow the same basic story line (using the same press release). However, the latter had an emphasis on the climate change (cold spell) as this is what Watts blog is all about. Hence, the comments section is quite disappointing as it is the climate change that fixates their approach, generally laughing at the idea a cold spell could have wiped out the Neanderthals. As such, they are unwilling to address the catastrophism, an approach we might normally associate with mainstream and consensus views. After a while the comments began to focus on genes and how there is a residue of Neanderthals in modern European populations. The authors, or rather, the press release, was attacked for something it did not claim – they did not say the Campanian Ignumbrite wiped out the Neanderthals or that climate change was responsible – only that both things happened. That is all we need to take onboard. The fact that Neanderthal numbers declined is all part of the catastrophist story line – and the fact that Neanderthals had thrived for hundreds of thousands of years, through thick and thin as far as climate was concerned, is neither here nor there. They fell into decline as a result of something that also caused the Campanian Ignumbrite volcanic episode. The cold spell was an after event – and didn't help. The fact the commenters failed to grasp this point was revealing as mainstream have the same kind of mental blockage when it comes to the idea of global catastrophism. Further, critics of the extinction of the mammoths (and associated mammals) at the Younger Dryas Boundary event are always keen to tell everyone that mammoths had been subject to earlier bouts of die-off, and the period around 40,000 and 34,000 years ago is very often cited – or inferred. In Australia megafauna extinctions certainly are associated with that time – so recognising 40,000 years as the date of a global catastrophe helps to explain the extinction of various animals, and a more general decline in numbers. It also helps to explain some of those cave paintings – but that is another story.