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Biotech Science

Modern Humans, Neanderthals Shared Earth for 1,000 Years 765

joffley writes "ABC News is reporting on new evidence that has emerged suggesting Neanderthals co-existed with anatomically modern humans for at least 1,000 years in central France, before gradually disappearing about 28,000 to 30,000 years ago. But why did they disappear?"
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Modern Humans, Neanderthals Shared Earth for 1,000 Years

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  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:28PM (#13460259) Homepage Journal
    slider technology and left the planet. Unfortunatly they lost the coordinates for there home earth dimension. Also unfortunate that they became NAZI's.
    • by FosterKanig ( 645454 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:41PM (#13460365)
      It's my understanding that the Neanderthals lived in caves located below sea level. A big storm came and wiped them all out.
    • Re:they invented (Score:5, Insightful)

      by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:44PM (#13460383)
      Thats not offtopic, thats a reference to a bad sci-fi series. What could be more on-topic at Slashdot?
      • Re:they invented (Score:3, Informative)

        by jcenters ( 570494 )
        Actually, it was a pretty good series before they introduced the Strogg/Nazi/Reptile villans, changed the cast, and completely destroyed the original, cool premise of the show.

        Then it got handed over to the Sci-Fi channel where they really fucked it up.

  • Far Side? (Score:5, Funny)

    by statusbar ( 314703 ) <> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:28PM (#13460264) Homepage Journal
    I'm CERTAIN that I have seen a Far Side comic that dealt with this exact situation.

    • by Thangodin ( 177516 ) < minus pi> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:06PM (#13460547) Homepage
      I'm reminded of that line by Londo Mollari in Babylon 5: "You know, there were two intelligent species on our planet, but we wiped the other one out. Do you know what the last one said just before he died? AAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:29PM (#13460270)
    Because the Flying Spaghetti Monster decided so.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      actually, the french neanderthals surrendered...

      har har har..
    • A little while back, I would have had no clue what the joke meant. Actually, it's suprisingly relevant. Anyway... terism []
  • Because... (Score:2, Funny)

    by mbrewthx ( 693182 )
    They couldn't find any acting jobs until recently.
  • by FraggleMI ( 117868 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:29PM (#13460272) Homepage
    they are still here...
  • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:29PM (#13460276) Homepage Journal
    Mebbe they weren't cross fertile (produced mules) and neanderthals had such a strong exogamy component, they died out trying too hard.
  • no why (Score:2, Funny)

    by NoGuffCheck ( 746638 )
    the question should be " did they dissapear?"

    and the answer is no erskieranclancy.jpg/ []
  • Well. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jediman1138 ( 680354 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:30PM (#13460283) Homepage Journal
    Well, everyone took a vote, and they got voted off the island.
    • ...and welcome to historically confused live semi final with your hosts Raquel Welch and Brendan Fraser... remember ...

      • To evict Ug, signal: fat-cloud, fat-cloud, fat-cloud.
      • To evict Nnnngmph, signal: little cloud, little cloud, tall-cloud.

      Call cost may vary according to avaiable combustible materials and wind direction. One vote per cave.

  • Where they went... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:31PM (#13460288) Homepage Journal
    I think it's fairly easy to know where they went. Because they were "different" than modern humans, with lower technology levels, we simply killed them off for trying to take our resources. It's a no-brainer, because it's what we do as humans. We try to related but we destroy people who are not like us. Look at it as an early form of racism, and it's pretty straight forward. I'm not saying it's good, but at the time, we were equally as primative. We are still as primative, generally.
  • They invented computers. about 100 years later, they were all nerds hiding in caves bootlegging MP3s and stealing wireless connections. Ahhh, the future of us.
  • by GreyWolf3000 ( 468618 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:32PM (#13460293) Journal
    The humans got sick of the neanderthals and moved away. The neanderthals just...stayed in France :)

    I kid, I kid.

  • by Pantero Blanco ( 792776 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:32PM (#13460294)
    A period of a thousand years is long enough for the Cro-Magnon, with their superior abilities and traits, to become more numerous than the Neanderthals. At that point the Neanderthals were either killed off or crossbred with the Cro-Magnon. Over time, most of the Neanderthal genes in the offspring probably faded.
    • What is the mechanism by which genes fade? I suggest that you take a basic biology class. Mitochrondrial DNA tests indicate that Neanderthals were an entirely seperate species with no interbreeding [].Here's more on MtDNA [] highlight the discovery of Eve who lived 200,000 years ago.
      • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @11:05PM (#13460875) Homepage Journal
        Mitochrondrial DNA tests indicate that Neanderthals were an entirely seperate species with no interbreeding.

        Actually, this merely says that any Neanderthal ancestors we may have weren't through the pure-maternal line. It says nothing at all about the nuclear DNA, which is over 99% of our DNA.

        I've been watching for reports on Neanderthal DNA, and I've been repeatedly disappointed by people making conclusions from mtDNA samples. This basically indicates cluelessness about how inheritance works. Your mtDNA is a rather special case, and it's inherited very differently from your nuclear DNA. It's only useful for tracing your purely-maternal line of ancestors. It carries no information about any male or any of his ancestors.

        It's still entirely possible that a tiny part of the ancestry of Europeans is Neanderthal. This could mean a few hundred genes scattered through the nuclear DNA. It could mean just one gene. Until you convincingly show, for every single gene, that it's not of Neanderthal origin, you really haven't shown that there was no interbreeding at all.

        This is significant because nobody suggests a significant Neanderthal contribution to the modern European gene pool. Even supporters of the conjecture would be surprised if 1% of our genes are of Neanderthal origin. The question is whether the number is exactly zero or something slightly higher.

        My guess is that we'll never have good enough evidence of Neanderthal genes to show that there was no interbreeding at all. That requires study of the entire genome, and the fossil record doesn't have to have preserved it for us. Unless there's some very luck discovery, such as a deep-frozen Neanderthal in the permafrost (that's now rapidly melting, so we'd better hurry), it's unlikely that we'll ever have a complete sample of Neanderthal DNA. And even that wouldn't really be enough; the most it could prove is that that particular individual wasn't one of our ancestors.

        In any case, arguments from mtDNA are supremely unconvincing. Interesting, yes, but unconvincing.

        But that doesn't stop the media from publishing gee-whiz articles on the topic.

        • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Friday September 02, 2005 @12:34AM (#13461422) Journal
          Actually, this merely says that any Neanderthal ancestors we may have weren't through the pure-maternal line. It says nothing at all about the nuclear DNA, which is over 99% of our DNA.

          True, however:

          My guess is that we'll never have good enough evidence of Neanderthal genes to show that there was no interbreeding at all. That requires study of the entire genome, and the fossil record doesn't have to have preserved it for us.

          No - there would be a distinctive signal we can detect purely from modern human genomes. Imagine that for gene X, 1% of Europeans have a Neandertal gene, and everyone else (including all non-Europeans) have the Sapiens gene. We sequence this gene from 10000 people, 1000 of whom are European, 10 of whom have the Neandertal gene. Those 10 Europeans have sequences which are similar to each other, but are much more different from the consensus than any other gene sequences - and most significantly, much more different than any of the African samples. (Africa being the homeland of Homo Sapiens means it has the largest genetic variability.)

          Putting it another way: if we created a phylogenetic tree of the genes, we would observe some of the European genes being basal (separated from the bulk of the sequences by the first bifurcation on the tree), and by a large margin (after this bifurcation, there is a long time before the next bifurcation on the main branch.)

          We haven't yet observed such a pattern, although I think people have looked. We may yet find this, but the longer we look without finding it, the less likely the interbreeding hypothesis becomes.

          IAATMP. (I am a theoretical molecular phylogenist.)
    • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:30PM (#13460676) Homepage

      Lewis Binford, many years back, investigated another site (in Israel) where h. sapiens and h. neanderthalis existed in close proximity for MUCH longer, around 90,000 years IIRC. The same results otherwise, despite an incredibly long time period very close to each other, no genetic drift towards each other to be seen. Pretty much has to mean that they were not sexually compatible with each other.

      Everyone assumes that OUR ancestors had the 'superior abilities and traits' but, other than the fact that we're here instead of them, there's no reason to think that. They were definately stronger, more muscular and with a more efficient musculature as well - if they were still alive today they would take all the top spots in just about any sport you can think of. The 'hunchback' stereotype is incorrect - one of the early neanderthal skeletons had those features and that was taken as typical, but it turns out it was just that that particular individual had massive crippling arthritic problems - it wasn't genetic. And despite the stereotype that they were dumb, there's really no evidence of that either - their brains were even larger than ours, and their artifacts are not inferior.

      One difference is that there is a bone in the throat, (hyoid bone iirc) critical to the production of human speech, which was shaped differently in the neanderthal. They would not have been capable of making many of the sounds we use in speech as a result. However, that doesn't mean they couldn't have spoken their own languages, with different sounds - only that they would not have been able to make many of the sounds we use.

      Still a great mystery. Maybe one day we'll know what happened.

      • The trouble is that the fossil record only shows certain types of traits. There may have been a trait that Homo Sapiens acquired that is not visible in the fossil record that gave it a big advantage. (For instance, a change in brain structure that did not change the size and shape of the skull cavity.) The fact that "humans" had a small range for a hundred thousand years and then exploded out of Africa in a fairly short time frame implies that something changed, even if we can't see it in the bones.
  • They didn't disappear, they moved into management roles.
  • by denissmith ( 31123 ) * on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:32PM (#13460303)
    From TFA: In short, the indicators point to the likelihood that Homo sapiens crushed or ousted the Neanderthals in the fight to survive. Why do we always need to reduce the possibilities to just these two? Isn't it equally likely that in the ebb and flow of occupation of the area humans eventually exhausted the resources that the Neanderthal relied upon, while being able to exploit other resources that the Neanderthal couldn't? Since 1,000 years is the overlap epoch it doesn't appear that a policy of active antipathy is at work.
  • by uits ( 792760 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:33PM (#13460314)
    It's not implied in the article...but I've got a nagging suspicion we just slaughtered them for fun and sport.
  • Heard this before... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AsiNisiMasa ( 910721 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:35PM (#13460321) Homepage
    The Discovery channel ran a special recently about evolution and it offered similar information. Considering how long it takes to produce such a show, one would think this would have already made it's rounds around the internet.

    As far as the question of why they are extinct, the show stated it as a matter of fact that homo sapiens simply over-ran their niche, as is prone to happen when two competing species inhabit the same environment.

    I dunno if the show was pushing it's speculation as fact or if this source is out of date. It seems to make sense though. Smarter, team-working homo sapiens out-hunt the competition and the others starve.
  • Maybe they were tasty and we ate them.
  • Peer Review? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eagle52997 ( 691489 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:48PM (#13460411) Journal
    This guy's publications list pretty much ends in 1997. [] Where is this work published? If it can't stand up to peer review, why is ABC reporting on it?

    I'd like to see his methods, and find out how exactly they dated samples, and if they did a check on sample prep in order to verify their results. Until that can be shown, why should we believe the report?
  • by John Hawks ( 624818 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:58PM (#13460479)

    There are two central issues. One is that the "Aurignacian" industry, which is proposed to have been made by modern humans, may not actually have been a single industry across Europe. In the current study, the "interleaving" of the two kinds of tools is documented by around 10 artifacts, out of 750 total.

    The other issue is that no fossil remains of modern humans have yet been found associated with early "Aurignacian" tools. We simply don't know who made them. Since they are not technically very different from the Neandertal-associated Chatelperronian, it is hard to say that there is a real cognitive difference represented by those tools, whoever made them.

    I have some pictures of the tools on my weblog post [] (John Hawks Anthropology Weblog) [], and conclude this:

    But when two pictures look like the ones above, and they are supposed to be typologically identifiable products of "modern humans" on the one hand, and "Neandertals" on the other -- well, it seems to me there needs to be a bit more than an edge of retouch behind that conclusion.


  • Actually... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ImagistTD ( 890609 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @09:59PM (#13460490) Homepage
    There is actually good reason to believe that homo neandertalis is still very alive in some parts of the world. Isolated regions of the planet often have some groups of people who are unable to interbreed with other groups that have been active members in the gene pool. Although homo neandertalis would probably have evolved just as much as our own homo sapiens since the time of the neanderthal skeleton, they could easily still be living. It is also possible that homo erectus could be alive, but this is less likely because of their smaller brains. Homo neandertal is able to compete with, though not dominate, homo sapiens because we have similar cranial mass, but homo erectus just didn't have enough brains to cut it.
    • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sillybilly ( 668960 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:20PM (#13460637)
      Don't you know it's not the brainmass that counts, but the interconnectedness of neurons? A kitty-cat has a pretty small brain compared to a cow, but you can't say it's proportionally more stupid. It's similar with people, CPU's, etc.. the visible macroscopic size is not what counts, but the microscopic stuff inside that makes it tick. As far as genetic fitness goes, it's amazing just how much doesn't depend on genetics, but it's learned, educated. See feral children [].
  • Damn! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShadyG ( 197269 ) <> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:02PM (#13460519) Homepage
    Based on that picture, I'd have to say that the Neanderthals died out because the Cro-Magnon women were way better looking.
  • Birth canal problems (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:11PM (#13460588) Homepage Journal
    One theory is that when neanderthals mated with modern humans the offspring would survive if the father was a modern human and mother was a neanderthal because the neanderthal woman's birth canal was wider. However, if a neanderthal man mated with a modern human the mother and child could die in labor due to the fact that the birth canal was too narrow for the hybrid child. There has been speculation on differing gestation periods as well.

    The reason this results in extinction of one of the races is due to the fact that when there is consistent gender bias in inter-racial mating, if there is any degree of polygyny or serial monogamy (de facto polygyny) then the gene flow tends to be from the race whose males are successfully mating to the population whose males are not as successfully mating. If there is any substantial inter-racial mating under such circumstances it could easily be that a millenium or so is all it would take to destroy the existence of the race whose males are experiencing lower fertility.

    The question is what was the trigger that resulted in the presence of modern humans midst neanderthals?

    • A Credible Theory (Score:3, Interesting)

      by octalman ( 169480 )
      Some time ago I saw a TV program on this subject. The investigators claimed to have found objects which they associated with Cro-Magnon people, objects with strange marks on them; marks which appeared to be a crude lunar calendar. If true, Cro-Magnon folks were much more intelligent than their Neanderthal neighbors -- able to forecast dark (or light) nights, able to record information and able to engage in non-verbal communication. And outsmart their enemies as well as become more efficient hunters and pr
    • by Oxen ( 879661 )
      I love how every time something is posted on Slashdot as to what makes humans unique, everyone states some random idea as if it has more credibility than the others. The fact is that there is likely no simple reason why humans outcompeted Neanderthals, but was problem several factors working synergistically.
      Furthermore, mitochondrial DNA contradicts your argument. Mitochondrial DNA is passed down only from mother to child. The evidence stongly points to the fact that modern humans do not have Neanderth
  • by jesup ( 8690 ) * <randellslashdot AT jesup DOT org> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:19PM (#13460625) Homepage
    Smaller and squatter than Homo sapiens but with larger brains, Neanderthals lived in Europe, parts of central Asia and the Middle East for about 170,000 years.
    Ummm, they were larger than modern humans... though they did have larger brains (avg 1500-1600cc), though well within the range of modern humans (1000-2000cc, avg 1300cc).

    It is interesting to see proof of overlap in a single area, though this isn't surprising. Also, currently mitocondrial data indicates that there isn't a major influx of DNA from them, though some interbreeding could have occurred and survived to today, especially if it conferred a survival advantage in northern climes, for example.

  • by aquatone282 ( 905179 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @10:45PM (#13460745)

    My german is pretty poor, but it was simple to pick up the basic story line:

    The show followed a family of Neandrathals as they attempted to cross the Alps.

    A young female wandered off from the family. Nearby, three "modern" human males had a camp and were cooking meat over a fire. The female picked up the scent of the meat and followed it to the camp.

    The males lured her into the camp with the offer of food. She warily accepted and while she was eating, one of the males knocked her down to her hands and knees and took her from behind (much to her distress). The other males then took their turns.

    The last shot was of the female wandering up into the snow-covered mountains, obviously pregnant.

    Again, my german is not very good, but the impression I got was the show was attempting to explain how a neandrathal female corpse, preserved by altitude and cold, was found in the Alps with an unborn child that contained "modern" human DNA. . .

    Got to love those European documentaries - they leave little to the imagination.

  • Isn't this obvious? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dtjohnson ( 102237 ) on Thursday September 01, 2005 @11:40PM (#13461108)
    The 'cro-magnons' were taller, relatively weak, and good walkers but...not real bright. the Neandertals were much brighter but short, stocky, and not as good in the walking and throwing department. Then mix a Neandertal with a cute cro-magnon babe and...voila...'modern man' with his big brain and superb two-legged walking and baseball throwing ability. We are all descendants of those few hybridized offspring 38,000 years ago who then quickly multiplied and killed off the ancestral forms, of course.
  • by raque ( 457836 ) <jimwall@ma c . com> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @11:55PM (#13461185)
    This has been dealt with to death, Scientific American has run dozens of articles on it. There are any number of simulations that show exactly what happened to the Neanderthals (check out these StarLogo examples tion/starlogo/starlogo.htm/ [] ), all that has to happen is that reproduction has to drop below replacement for a long enough period of time. Europe is very mountainous, they are "Cave Men" after all, and if populations in different valleys don't mix because some of those funky new people are in a valley between you, and extinction occurs, without any contact at all. We can out compete them without ever meeting them.
  • by FredThompson ( 183335 ) <fredthompson@min ... minus bsd> on Thursday September 01, 2005 @11:56PM (#13461191)
    My sister told me she's dated a few...
  • by Enrique1218 ( 603187 ) on Friday September 02, 2005 @12:08AM (#13461277) Journal
    The conquest of the Americas nearly cause a similar event with the Native Americans. Disease, domination, and marginalization of territory nearly wipe out the Amerindians. My guess it was simlar set circumstances that did in the Neanderthals. First, Humans and Neanderthals are related closely just as a horse an a donkey are. So, diseases that human had long evolved to resist Moreover, these are the humans whose descendants will be the most notorious conquerors in human history. Live and let live and share and share alike were probably not well practice back then either. Humans with superior numbers and technology wipe out whole tribes. Then, the final blow was neanderthals, due to war, probably limited themselves to smaller stretches of territory in less hospitable regions where they finally went extinct. Native Americans were lucky in that they could interbreed with the conqueror; however, since human and neanderthals are different species, any interbreeding may have lead to sterile offspring if that.
  • by geoswan ( 316494 ) on Friday September 02, 2005 @01:12AM (#13461631) Journal
    About twenty years ago Scientific American reviewed the most recent sequel to "Clan of the Cave Bear", and compared it with the work of Bjorn Ku:rten, a real anthropologist, who wrote a pair of novels about the meeting between Neanderthal and modern humans. Excellent novels. I highly recommend them too.

    The Scientific American reviewer commented that the author of COTCB had done a reasonable amount of homework. She got details about the technology right. But that her heroine was like a Californai "vallery girl" transplanted to the paleolithic.

    Various contributors to this thread have said "We killed them. We were smarter than they were. That's life." But there is no evidence that we were more intelligent. Some anthropologists have suggested that one advantage modern humans had over Neanderthals was that the shape of our throat and larynx allows modern humans to make sounds that Neanderthals couldn't -- and that this allowed a richer, more expressive, vocal expression.

  • by kiore ( 734594 ) on Friday September 02, 2005 @04:32AM (#13462388) Homepage Journal

    Dear Mr Neanderthal,

    First I must solicit your strictest confidence of this transaction. This is by virtue of its nature as being utterly confidential and "Top Secret".

    You must be surprised hearing from me in this manner as we have not previously communicated.

    Please allow me to introduce myself. I am HOMO SAPIENS SAPIENS, descendant and heir of the late HOMO HEIDELBERGENSIS of AFRICA.

    Before he passed away my late ancestor secreted one hundred thousand (ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND) african elephants in the plains of Africa and I seek your assistance to export these animals to Europe where the growing shortage of the similar "Woolly mamoths" would make them highly marketable.

    While the seas and deserts seperating Africa from Europe are easily overcome, African Animals are unable to tolerate cold and I will need a number of large fur coats to protect them for the journey.

    In return for the suply of these furs and acting as my agent for the sale I would be delighted to offer you a full 50% of the realised market value.

    Yours Faithfully

    Homo Sapiens Sapiens,

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus