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Super Computing the Neanderthal Demise

21 May 2020

At https://phys.org/news/2020-05-supercomputer-simulations-reveal-neanderth… … opne for the fairies. Perhaps. It involves climate scientists. Not a good start. Then we get into supercomputers and simulations. The idea of the research was to pin down how the Neanderthals became extinct. The choices are limited it would seem – and therefore the input into the supercomputer is threadbare. Apparently, it was either because of abrupt climate shifts or a failure to compete with the incoming modern humans. Funnily enough it is dating that appears to drive the results – and we all know that ancient remains are reliably dated don't we. What can go wrong?

The Neanderthals disappeared between 43,000 and 38,000 years ago – a recent date as a result of Bayesian methodology being applied to a lot of dates, and rounded (and funnily enough extending the date in which C14 is considered reliable). Older C14 dates put the demise of the Neanderthals almost as late as 30,000 years ago. The problem appears to be a huge C14 plateau which skews the dates over a long period. Did Bayesian methodology really move dates backwards – or was it expedient as a way to get round the plateau.

Neanderthals disappeared off the face of the earth it would seem, leaving behind a weak genetic signal in modern humans. This has vexed researchers. Did they interbreed with each other. Why are modern humans always found above Neanderthal remains when both occur at the same site? Is there really any evidence that modern humans were in any way superior to Neanderthals. Some people think not. Other people think modern humans were way more capable than Neanderthals and it was survival of the fittest. This piece of new research doesn't really add much to the debate. You're either in one camp or the other. What is clear is that the Neanderthals disappeared at the same time as a mass die off of animals in the wider world. Were Neanderthals victims of the same catastrophic event? Mind you it is useful to see how the demise is treated in the climate science way – with supercomputer simulations and a limited input of possibilities.

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