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Humans Ate Neanderthals

Scientists Claim it is Unlikely Humans Ate Neanderthals

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The sudden disappearance of the Neanderthals, the closest living relatives of modern humans, approximately 30,000 years ago has been perplexing archaeologists for decades. Explanations range from climate change to interbreeding, competitive replacement and even the spread of pathogens. A more recent hypothesis put forward by archaeologists in Spain was that Homo sapiens may have hunted and eaten Neanderthals to extinction.   However, the latter explanation has now been refuted by scientists who say there is no clear evidence to support such a theory.

The extinction through being hunted hypothesis was put forward in a study published in the May 8 issue of the journal Quaternary International where scientists Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro and Policarp Hortolà at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution in Tarragona, Spain.  Martínez-Navarro and Hortolà claimed that Homo sapiens were a “worldwide pest species” who were responsible for the extinction of more than 178 of the world’s largest mammal species, including Neanderthals, and that "No other species has ever developed such a killing potential."

However, to date, there is no evidence for such a claim. For example, none of the Neanderthal bones recovered have displayed cut marks from Homo sapien stone tools.  According to Chris Stringer, paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, there is even doubt about whether there was much overlap between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, and if they did overlap at some point “it may have been near the end of their time”, Stringer said. 

There may have been occasional violent encounters between Homo sapien and Neanderthal groups, or within those groups — "that's human nature, and has happened throughout history," Stringer said. "But the evidence is pretty thin that violence was a major mechanism for their disappearance."

By April Holloway

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