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Podcast Download- Human Evolution: Lucy and Neandertals


  • Registered Users Posts: 17,397 ✭✭✭✭r3nu4l

    Haven't listened to it all but it's interesting so far. I like the idea that the technological superiority of modern humans over Neanderthals wasn't the sole cause of Neanderthal decline.

    He says that climate change probably played a part in Neanderthals decline and that the competing population of humans exacerbated the problems of there being less food around.

    So while populations declined in both groups, the inferior technology combined with the climate change meant that Neanderthals fared worse!

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 59,943 Mod ✭✭✭✭Wibbs

    Yea maybe. I have to say Dr Stringer is too mainstream for me. Always toes the party line, which I suppose he has to.

    The technology thing I don't really buy. There have been experiments in using both stone tools of Neandertals and Moderns and in many cases the Neandertal tools where more efficient to make and more efficient in use and more adaptable to local stone and tended to last longer as they weren't as delicate.

    Climate change may have been an issue, but I think for different reasons than are often given. Remember these were a human that lived in a very changeable Europe for 200,000 years. Longer than us in fact. They dealt with previous glacials and interglacials well enough.

    Then there's the other theory that the Neandertals diet was more limited than moderns and hence if a food source became scarce they were boned(or fossilised:D). Recent discoveries in Gibraltar put paid to that notion as their diet included seals and fish and all sorts of stuff not expected.

    My personal theory is that they went extinct for many reasons, including some of the above pressures. I would add a few more.

    60,000 yrs ago we changed. We started(for no obvious reason) to live longer. Into our 60's and beyond. That gives a big advantage. It means direct knowledge lasts for longer. It means that there are more caretakers for the next generation, which means more kids. More hunters and gatherers too and more experienced ones. All that equals one helluva difference between the groups.

    We also became more abstract in our concepts and expressions of same. This would serve to bond groups together. In times of woe that could mean the difference between giving up and hoping for better times.

    We had trade. Neandertal tools and goods come from a very small area around them. Ours on the other hand can come from far afield. Many 100's even 1000's of miles from their origin. Trade gives another huge advantage. In times that are lean one tribe can trade with another to survive(even trading mating partners. The kings of europe were doing that until very recently. That I think is a big diff in moderns, compared to earlier humans. I eckon they would protect their mating stock more, both male and female). Though I saw of one dig that suggested that Neandertals may traded with us as modern stuff was found among the finds.

    Following from that, the genes so far extracted from Neandertals are very limited(even more inbred than us). That seems to mean they didn't exchange genes too often with those outside their home range. That's another limit(though I also reckon that opens the door even more that they had a bit of nookie with us as potential partners became scarce)

    Then throw in a new group of people, foriegners exposed to different diseases. A group of people with a wider spread of genes. Us. And we know what happened when europeans went to the new world. Imagine that with a population that was tiny in genetic protection and diversity by comparison.

    It's a pity they're gone though. Then again I would believe they still live on in us today in certain populations, so they're really not gone.

    Rejoice in the awareness of feeling stupid, for that’s how you end up learning new things. If you’re not aware you’re stupid, you probably are.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 10,073 Mod ✭✭✭✭marco_polo

    I hadn't thought about the disease aspect before, indeed given the massive impact on native populations by European settlers, it seems a plausible candidate for playing a signifigant role the Neanderthal demise.

    Unfortunately all but impossible to ever muster much evidence for I would imagine.