Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Lost Neanderthal Empire

OK , the evidence that the Neanderthal’s organized themselves into complex social groups of any sort is rather  sparse: really sparse.  My primary point here is to show the fragility of small groups within limited geographical areas to large external events.
Even the gravity of weather events within the confines of a specific area are underestimated.  You do not need a Hurricane Katrina to cause a disaster within a limited area:  particularly if no aid is arriving from outside the area, and there is no possibility of fleeing to a safe haven area.
If modern means of transport are not available the ability to move large amounts of food stuff is very limited.  It should be recalled that even with the very well organized Romans, it was easier to ship something across the entire breadth of the Mediterranean Sea than to ship it by land 75 miles.  And yet at the same times, bodies of water and rivers are some of the primary culprits for localized weather disasters.
There seems to be a notion that if you got away from modern agriculture with its fuel dependence, and high population densities, that our problems would go away.   But it was weather related problems (the Younger Dryas to be more specific) that seem to be closely linked to the beginnings of the early farming economies.  Neanderthals would have been relatively unspecialized hunter-gatherers with a very low population density.   Yet, they were not immune to vagaries of nature.
For the first time, we have identified evidence that the disappearance of Neanderthals in the Caucasus coincides with a volcanic eruption at about 40,000 BP.

Our data support the hypothesis that the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in western Eurasia correlates with a global volcanogenic catastrophe. The coeval volcanic eruptions (from a large Campanian Ignimbrite eruption to a smaller eruption in the Central Caucasus) had an unusually sudden and devastating effect on the ecology and forced the fast and extreme climate deterioration (“volcanic winter”) of the Northern Hemisphere in the beginning of Heinrich Event 4. Given the data from Mezmaiskaya Cave and supporting evidence from other sites across the Europe, we guess that the Neanderthal lineage truncated abruptly after this catastrophe in most of its range.

We also propose that the most significant advantage of early modern humans over contemporary Neanderthals was geographic localization in the more southern parts of western Eurasia and Africa. Thus, modern humans avoided much of the direct impact of the European volcanic crisis. They may have further benefited from the Neanderthal population vacuum in Europe and major technological and social innovations, whose revolutionary appearance shortly after 40,000 BP documents the beginning of Upper Paleolithic.
Current Anthropology, 51:655–691, October 2010
Liubov Vitaliena Golovanova, Vladimir Borisovich Doronichev, Naomi Elansia Cleghorn, Marianna Alekseevna Koulkova, Tatiana Valentinovna Sapelko, and M. Steven Shackley
Post Conquest Celebrations!

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