The Emerging Fate Of The Neandertals

April 25, 2007
The Emerging Fate Of The Neandertals
The Oase 2 (Upper) and Muierii 1 (Lower) crania in norma lateralis left. In an article appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, has brought together data showing that early modern humans did exhibit evidence of Neandertal traits. Credit: Romanian Academy/Muzeul Olteni/Erik Trinkaus

For nearly a century, anthropologists have been debating the relationship of Neandertals to modern humans. Central to the debate is whether Neandertals contributed directly or indirectly to the ancestry of the early modern humans that succeeded them.

As this discussion has intensified in the past decades, it has become the central research focus of Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Trinkaus has examined the earliest modern humans in Europe, including specimens in Romania, Czech Republic and France. Those specimens, in Trinkaus' opinion, have shown obvious Neandertal ancestry.

In an article appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Trinkaus has brought together the available data, which shows that early modern humans did exhibit evidence of Neandertal traits.

"When you look at all of the well dated and diagnostic early modern European fossils, there is a persistent presence of anatomical features that were present among the Neandertals but absent from the earlier African modern humans," Trinkaus said. "Early modern Europeans reflect both their predominant African early modern human ancestry and a substantial degree of admixture between those early modern humans and the indigenous Neandertals."

This analysis, along with a number of considerations of human genetics, argues that the fate of the Neandertals was to be absorbed into modern human groups. Just as importantly, it also says that the behavioral difference between the groups were small. They saw each other as social equals.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

Explore further: Study questions Neandertal inferiority to early modern humans

Related Stories

Dating encounters between modern humans and Neandertals

October 4, 2012

To discover why Neandertals are most closely related to people outside Africa, Harvard and Max Planck Institute scientists have estimated the date when Neandertals and modern Europeans last shared ancestors. The research, ...

Recommended for you

Fossils of early tetrapods unearthed in Scotland

December 7, 2016

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working at a dig site in Scotland has found tetrapod fossils dated to approximately 15 million years after the Devonian mass extinction—a time period experts in the field have referred ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.