Demography and the extinction of European Neanderthals

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Abstract

Causes previously suggested for the sudden extinction of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) in Europe, starting around 35,000 years ago, comprise food shortage, climatic effects and violence from Modern Humans. The aim here is to formulate a demographic model with reconstructed fertility and death rates, capable of modelling the population development under conditions of changing climate and prey availability, from the early appearance of Neanderthals in Europe about 260,000 years ago to their demise. Parameter variation studies are made for the parameters considered to have the highest uncertainty. Finally, the option of regional migration between northern, middle and southern Europe is added, in order to capture population movements away from a region in response to deteriorating or improving climate. This model accounts for population developments, including the re-population of the Middle and Northern regions of Europe during and after the warm Eem period. However, parameter choices that give plausible results during the initial 210,000 years also predict that the Neanderthals should have survived the latter part of the Weichselian ice age, despite competing for food with Modern Human newcomers during the last part of the period. The conclusion is that other reasons for extinction than climate or starvation must be sought.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Vol/bind30
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)17-29
ISSN0278-4165
StatusUdgivet - 2011

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