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Cultural Evolution and Demise of Neanderthals

2 March 2024
Anthropology, Biology, Genetics, Geology

At https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240207120432.htm … a new study highlights a cultural evolution that took place approximately 50 to 40,000 years ago – coinciding with a dispersal of Homo sapiens over Eurasia. This study is based on stone tool technologies. We may note the significance of the date for this change. It coincides perfectly with the Laschamp Event. This involved large scale mass die off of animals – and that probably extended to humans [such as the Neandetthals and Denisovans], as well. Taking that into consideration one can come to a quite different conclusion to that of the authors. A human bottleneck coinciding with migration and innovations as new types of prey became important, may all be that occurred. It doesn’t really matter if Neanderthals mated with  Homo sapiens or not. The difference exists prior to Laschamp – and in the wake of Laschamp.

However, this study is actually an update on the evidence in the ground – or mostly in caves. There was not a rapid cultural and technological revolution, as favoured by several generations of scientists, but a nuanced, or slowish, evolutionary process, unfolding gradually over an extended time period. This is what one might expect if human numbers had fallen drastically – Neanderthal and Homo sapiens. They would have gradually expanded in the aftermath. Or in this case, the Neanderthals disappeared.

The study comes from Nagoya University in Japan. That accounts for the more sober appraisal of the evidence. See https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-44798-y

At https://www.livescience.com/archaeology/simply-did-not-work-mating-between-neanderthals-and-modern-humans-may-have-been-a-product-of-failed-alliances-says-archaeologist-ludovic-slimak … which is questioning the idea Neanderthals mated with  Modern Humans, and if so, why did they disappear. Ludovic Slimak, a French archaeologist, has written a book on the subject – his lifelong obsession. ‘The Naked Neanderthal: a New Understanding- of the Human Creature’ – which is one to read at some point in the future. Slimak has been investigating caves around the world since he was 18 – and he has accrued more than enough understanding of the Neanderthals. Interesting facts on the DNA of Neanderthals. He makes the point that Homo sapiens have some Neanderthal DNA – but there is not a single Neanderthal with Homo sapiens DNA. This drives home the severity of the Laschamp event as far as the Neanderthals and Denisovans are concerned. Changes in dating methodology should also be taken into account.

At https://www.livescience.com/archaeology/it-haunts-all-our-imaginations-were-neanderthals-really-like-us   … which is also derived from Ludovic Slimak’s book on the Neanderthals. It seems the research community is divided. There are those keen to float the idea Neanderthals are an archaic branch of humanity with inferior intellectual capabilities. On the other side are those that view them as basically much like us. A clash of ideologies it would seem. One would have to read Slimak’s book to find out which side he is on.

At https://www.livescience.com/archaeology/did-art-exist-before-modern-humans-new-discoveries-raise-big-questions  … and at this link the controversy revolves around whether or not Neanderthals were capable of artistic expression. The problem is not as simple as that, though. Prior to the Laschamp Event, which involved world wide auroral phenomena, as well as other problems for humanity, there might not have been much to inspire Neanderthals to undertake complicated art work. Those that survived the Laschamp Event may have had plenty to inspire art on cave walls – or on rocks anywhere in the world. How would they have expressed it and is there evidence in art of something very unusual occurring. If not why not. Does the Laschamp Event require a new appraisal?

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