Neanderthals died out earlier than originally believed

May 10, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
Homo neanderthalensis, adult male. Credit: John Gurche, artist / Chip Clark, photographer

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to a newly released report in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a newly refined method of radiocarbon dating has found that Neanderthals died off much earlier than originally believed. Where previous testing had shown fossils as young as 29,000 years ago, this new method puts the date closer to 39,000 years ago, sparking the debate that Neanderthals and modern humans probably never interacted in Europe.

A specialist in from , Thomas F. G. Higham developed a new method of radiocarbon dating with ultrafiltration which is able to remove contaminants to better receive an accurate dating. Radiocarbon dating measures a carbon (carbon 14) which decays at a predictable rate after death. In specimens older than 30,000 years, very little carbon remains.

Higham, along with archaeologist Ron Pinhasi from University College Cork in Ireland examined the bones from a Neanderthal child found in the Mezmaiskaya Cave location in the northern Caucasus Mountains. Their new radiocarbon dating method put this fossil at 39,700 years old. A previously found fossil at this site had been dated at 29,000 and was being re-examined with the new method.

Higham is re-dating Neanderthal sites throughout Europe and believes all remains will be changed with none begin younger than 39,000 years old. Because of this new find, he believes there is now no evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans were co-existing in Europe for very long at all, and that there is even the possibility that the Neanderthals demise was at the hands of the modern human.

This is where the debate begins, as geneticists reported last year that 2.5 percent of the modern human genome is derived from the . There is evidence of co-existing in the Near East some 100,000 years ago, as well as in Europe 40,000 years ago. With the new carbon dating timeline, it is now believed that interbreeding between the two did not occur in Europe but rather during that first encounter.

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More information: Revised age of late Neanderthal occupation and the end of the Middle Paleolithic in the northern Caucasus, PNAS, Published online before print May 9, 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018938108

Abstract
Advances in direct radiocarbon dating of Neanderthal and anatomically modern human (AMH) fossils and the development of archaeostratigraphic chronologies now allow refined regional models for Neanderthal–AMH coexistence. In addition, they allow us to explore the issue of late Neanderthal survival in regions of Western Eurasia located within early routes of AMH expansion such as the Caucasus. Here we report the direct radiocarbon (14C) dating of a late Neanderthal specimen from a Late Middle Paleolithic (LMP) layer in Mezmaiskaya Cave, northern Caucasus. Additionally, we provide a more accurate chronology for the timing of Neanderthal extinction in the region through a robust series of 16 ultrafiltered bone collagen radiocarbon dates from LMP layers and using Bayesian modeling to produce a boundary probability distribution function corresponding to the end of the LMP at Mezmaiskaya. The direct date of the fossil (39,700 ± 1,100 14C BP) is in good agreement with the probability distribution function, indicating at a high level of probability that Neanderthals did not survive at Mezmaiskaya Cave after 39 ka cal BP ("calendrical" age in kiloannum before present, based on IntCal09 calibration curve). This challenges previous claims for late Neanderthal survival in the northern Caucasus. We see striking and largely synchronous chronometric similarities between the Bayesian age modeling for the end of the LMP at Mezmaiskaya and chronometric data from Ortvale Klde for the end of the LMP in the southern Caucasus. Our results confirm the lack of reliably dated Neanderthal fossils younger than ∼40 ka cal BP in any other region of Western Eurasia, including the Caucasus.

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User comments : 24

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Millanm
3.7 / 5 (3) May 10, 2011
The Higham et al results do not ONLY imply (as they strangely defend) that Neanderthal late/demise chronology should be re-considered (because datations are now questionables). Those results imply that all datations of early AMH and scores os EUP (Protoaurignacian, Aurignacian and even some Gravetian) sites should be now re-considered, because datations are now questionable.

In the other hand, all those "conclusions", about the big behavioural gap between Neanderthals and AMH are just no sense, can't really be "deduced" or inferred from the new datation and their REAL scientific meaning.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) May 10, 2011
Because of this new find, he believes there is now no evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans were co-existing in Europe for very long at all, and that there is even the possibility that the Neanderthals demise was at the hands of the modern human.
Maybe in the beds of modern humans, certainly not at our hands. We most likely interbred, and the observations thus far agree with this hypothesis.

Reducing the amount of time that we see shared land between homosapiens sapiens and homo neaderthalensis only tells me that assimilation and genetic intermixing occured far faster than previously believed. Having two small populations surviving in tandem with no interbreeding for extended periods of time is ludicrous. The shorter the cohabitation time period appears to be, the more likely to me it is that interbreeding occured.
that_guy
2.6 / 5 (5) May 10, 2011
If the model in the picture is correct, then my hypothesis is that they couldn't stand breeding with one another because of their hideous ponytails.

Creationists coming to rant about all radiocarbon dating to be flawed and the earth being 6000 years old in 5...4...3...2
Sonhouse
3.3 / 5 (3) May 10, 2011
Hey, the Earth is only 6000 years old, we ALL know that:)

Seriously, I wonder about the supposedly last stand of the Neandertals in Gibraltar, that dating should be redone also.
J-n
3.4 / 5 (5) May 10, 2011
The earth IS only 6000 years old, and the light from those distant stars is really god playing a trick on us. You know what they say about god being a trickster and all.
J-n
3.4 / 5 (5) May 10, 2011
Of course God being Kokopelli, the Hopi god of fertility who was also considered to be a trickster.

We're all Hopi right? Of course you are, if you aren't i truly feel sorry for you as you do not get to witness the wonderful feeling of being a part of the One True Religion. I pray for your soul, you non-belivers, as you will suffer an eternity being forced to smell my stinky feet.
that_guy
1 / 5 (2) May 10, 2011
i guess the creationists came in and gave us all ones rather than argue...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) May 10, 2011
Maybe in the beds of modern humans, certainly not at our hands. We most likely interbred, and the observations thus far agree with this hypothesis.
They were separate tribes attempting to inhabit the same niches and fill them to capacity. Tribal warfare ensued as it had throughout the bulk of human history.

Neandertal reproduction had most likely become seasonal as does most any temperate-dwelling animal and they could not make up battle losses as quickly as the tropical cro mags. The men were killed off (and eaten), the women were assimilated.

Cro mags had evolved in the context of endemic tribal warfare; they were used to this sort of thing. IMHO.
Beerbarian
1 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
Well said GhostofOtto, knowing what I know about humans that sounds quite probable.
DaveMart
5 / 5 (4) May 11, 2011
Doesn't inaccurate carbon dating also mean that modern human remains may be older than previously thought, and so co-habitation may still have occurred?
ennui27
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
If the model in the picture is correct, then my hypothesis is that they couldn't stand breeding with one another because of their hideous ponytails.

Creationists coming to rant about all radiocarbon dating to be flawed and the earth being 6000 years old in 5...4...3...2


Hey - not to insult my ansesters, but they were probably no physical treats either ..... come to think of it, according to DNA evidence - the picture IS of one of my ansesters, by about 3%.

Lay off my family! (You probably come from that Asian branch of sapiens, well known for their snooty ways.)
that_guy
1 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
If the model in the picture is correct, then my hypothesis is that they couldn't stand breeding with one another because of their hideous ponytails.

Creationists coming to rant about all radiocarbon dating to be flawed and the earth being 6000 years old in 5...4...3...2


Hey - not to insult my ansesters, but they were probably no physical treats either ..... come to think of it, according to DNA evidence - the picture IS of one of my ansesters, by about 3%.

Lay off my family! (You probably come from that Asian branch of sapiens, well known for their snooty ways.)


classic. I would get kicked out of the asian branch for my lack of math skills. Fortunately for them, I'm an insult to the white race instead.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet May 11, 2011
Hey, the Earth is only 6000 years old, we ALL know that:)

Seriously, I wonder about the supposedly last stand of the Neandertals in Gibraltar, that dating should be redone also.

DNA evidence came back on that showing more hybridization than previously believed.
ennui27
not rated yet May 11, 2011
[q
classic. I would get kicked out of the asian branch for my lack of math skills. Fortunately for them, I'm an insult to the white race instead.

Ah ha - a black sheep of the white race.

I see no one has responded to the question aboutNeanderthalrthal evidence found Gibraltar. Anyone know anything about this? This wasthe most modern evidence of their survival.
Ethelred
not rated yet May 15, 2011
I see no one has responded to the question aboutNeanderthalrthal evidence found Gibraltar.
I notice that they article says:

Our results confirm the lack of reliably dated Neanderthal fossils younger than ~40 ka cal BP in any other region of Western Eurasia, including the Caucasus.
The INCLUDING the Caucasus seems to be a bit propaganda like as they have NOTHING except the Caucasus. It looks like they are trying to claim far more than they have. They changed ONE date. So far. With no corroboration.

So this means NOTHING in regards to Iberian Neanderthals. C14 dating is subject to contamination from any ancient carbon sources such as coal or limestone. Thus if the Gibraltar Neanderthals were in a limestone cave they couldn't have been C14 dated in the first place.

Physical anthropology is rife with overstatements and extravagant claims in initial papers. I noticed this decades ago and it has not improved with time. Eventually it gets straightened out.

Ethelred
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) May 15, 2011
Physical anthropology is rife with overstatements and extravagant claims in initial papers. I noticed this decades ago and it has not improved with time. Eventually it gets straightened out.
It's not really science is it?
http://www.nytime...ogy.html
ennui27
not rated yet May 15, 2011
The poor old word science has taken a beating recently .... I took a course in a local college in business ..... the teacher had a M.Sc ..... a Master of Science (in business).

EH? Contrary soul that I am, I refuse to see a degree in psychology as a science degree .... .sciences are PREDICTIVE, the discipline of psychology is RETRODICTIVE.

I, of course, also have a Master of Science degree .... in English and another in Education.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) May 15, 2011
I, of course, also have a Master of Science degree .... in English and another in Education.
Perhaps the 'Science' qualifier helps you get a higher salary?
ennui27
not rated yet May 15, 2011
I, of course, also have a Master of Science degree .... in English and another in Education.
Perhaps the 'Science' qualifier helps you get a higher salary?


Thanks TGoO - but I was being a tad ironic there - an arts student I was and an arts student I remain.

As for higher saleries - my pre-university profession of miner paid a lot more than anything I could command mentioning a degree.

So it seems that Uncle Neander and Auntie CroMag had some offspring. Is there any chance that the Neanderthals were just bred out of existence - the numerically superiour Cro Magnon's DNA relegating the other's to that of 'also run'.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
I was being a tad ironic there
Yah so was I.
Uncle Neander and Auntie CroMag had some offspring.
If I am right it would have been the other way around- hotblooded cromag males usurping neander maidens at the expense of their temperate boyfriends.

We can see the tendency toward seasonal reproduction in higher latitudes, in the traditional June wedding. Whether a mating season emerged biologically in Neanderthal as opposed to culturally is a question. I don't know if this is being considered. I did read an article which suggested that small family groups would exchange females, by force or barter, to maintain genetic diversity.

Children born in early spring would have a better chance of surviving the next winter like any animal. But this would limit their recovery rate in conflict with tropical cromags who were used to unending reproduction and arguments over it. Neanders would have had long months of asexual peace to ponder the world; explaining their bigger brains perhaps
Astricus
3 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
Neanderthals died out... When? because last time I went for a trip deep into the hills around here, I met a few likely specimens. These pseudo scientists are nothing but sophisticated tool users trying to prove that we are not them by any means possible. We presume that 40,000 years ago these people could only grunt at each other. Assuming 4 generations every 100 years that is only 1600 generations to achieve all languages. Get with it we are Neanderthals and hybrid Neanderthals. Why not put some face characteristic software to task at determining the level of mixing through facial features. We, without tools, constantly determine levels of genetic compatibility through accessing facial and other physical attributes.. smell etc. The Neanderthals were hunters, they followed the European Bison migrations from Spain to the Caucuses and further North depending on the global weather patterns. Some stayed put in these areas and managed to start communities. Is this so difficult to understand
Egleton
not rated yet May 16, 2011
I am an I2a (P37.2). I wonder if we saw H. Neanderthal.
He was an obligate carnivore. I wonder if this is why we still exaggerate differences between people because our lives depended on recognising the carnivore.
ennui27
not rated yet May 16, 2011
"Neanderthals died out... When? because last time I went for a trip deep into the hills around here, I met a few likely specimens."

Been waiting for someone to say that.
Ethelred
not rated yet May 16, 2011
It's not really science is it?
Anthropology IS a science. The BLEADING FFFFUUUING MORONS in charge of that organization are BBLLLLEEEEP BLLEEEEP BNLLLLEP.

I am sorry there are no words adequate to describe the gross incompetence and Political bastardization involved. Firebombs and perhaps even the Assassination Bureau Ltd are called for. All this over incompetent anti-science political head in the sand excrements that refuse to accept the FACT that murder is an adaptive characteristic amongst the Yanamamo, something has been clear for decades.

Like the Aztecs, the Conquistadors, the Carthaginians and the Marjon Fringe of the Lunatic Right the Yanamamo are culture that the can best improve humanity by disappearing forever. No idiotic Politicaly INCorrect short sighted foolish stupidity can ever change that.

Ethelred

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