Theories about Neanderthals May Need to be Revised
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal may lead to a revision in current understanding about when the last Neanderthals walked the Earth.
Neanderthal occupation in Europe had previously been dated to about 35,000 years ago, while modern humans are thought to have been living in the area as far back as 41,000-45,000 years ago. This means there was thought to be an overlap in which humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) may have co-existed and perhaps even interbred.
However, the latest study has suggested that Neanderthals became extinct much earlier than previously thought. Neanderthal bones were re-examined using an improved method to filter out contamination and concluded that the remains are about 50,000 years old. The bone testing employed a new method called ‘ultrafiltration’ which clears away modern carbon contaminants prior to the dating process. This is thought to be more accurate that previous forms of carbon dating.
If the conclusions of the study are true, this has significant implications for our understanding of, what is thought to be, our evolutionary ‘cousin’, the Neanderthal. It casts doubt on the idea that modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed and interbred.
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