Neanderthal extinction: humans on the hook again!

Neanderthal found alive and well in all of us...

MM has come to this debate rather late, but can be forgiven as he was in Jersey selecting samples for an upcoming project. It appears that Palaeolithic archaeologists are kicking up quite a fuss about the interpretation of dates for Neanderthal fossils; rather it is not the dates but the interpretation. The site is Mezmaiskaya Cave,  in the northern Caucasus Mountains within European Russia. Improvements in radiocarbon dating has produced an age of 40kya and it has been suggested by the authors that this means there was only a short period of time for Neanderthals and modern humans to interact. The implication here is that modern-humans quickly out-competed Neanderthals causing their extinction.

However, there are many dissenting voices in the academic world and also in the twitter-sphere; MM is indeed one of them. I do not think there is necessarily debate about the dates but the interpretation that this date represents extinction. As it was succinctly put by Clive Finlayson:

All this paper shows is that Neanderthals lived somewhere in the Caucasus about 40,000 years ago. Doesn’t mean they went extinct then.

Similarly some of MM followers and colleagues have been saying the same thing. For example @LeMoustier  says:

Radiocarbon dates presence, not extinction..

This is certainly interesting information about the dating of the last Neanderthals but does not demonstrate sufficient evidence for their extinction. More rigiourous validation and understanding of the data required. If you can show me numerous radiocarbon dates clustering around 40kya maybe then we can talk.

Till then, bye bye from MM.

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One thought on “Neanderthal extinction: humans on the hook again!

  1. Pingback: Were Archaic Homo Sapiens alone in Europe? « Then Dig

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