In January of last year (2015) I posted, “My Theory: Ancestors didn’t go extinct, They INTERBRED!”. You’ll find this post at:
I began the post with the following:
I’ve always been a “people watcher” even when I was a kid. I tend to notice people and how they look. When I began to study paleontology I began to notice something. I began to compare the skulls and skeletons of our ancient hominin ancestors with modern people I saw and that is when I began to see similarities!
In some people I began to notice that they looked like Neanderthals. As I continued my anthropological studies I began to notice this more and more and I still notice it today. In some people you can see strong Neanderthal traits in them such as the shape of their skulls, the shape and size of their overall bodies, and in some of them you can even see the distinctive bun at the back of the skull that was so characteristic of Homo neanderthalensis. You can see these traits and more even in the way they walk and in some you can even see a brow ridge. Of course, they are not pure bred Neanderthals but you can clearly see the Neanderthal features in their morphology.
In April of 2014 an article appeared in ancient-origins.net revealing a new study which suggests that the Neanderthals never went extinct (see below for a link to this report).
As noted in the article there is much debate among researchers as to just what caused the demise of the Neanderthals. Theories range from climate change to competition for resources to lack of intelligence. It’s estimated tha the Neanderthals went extinct somewhere around 30-40 kya. However, new research published in April 2014 challenges all of those theories and suggests that the Neanderthals never went extinct at all but, rather, they interbred with modern humans (Homo sapiens).
This research was conducted by Dr. Paola Villa from the University of Colorado Museum and Professor Wil Roebroeks from Leiden University. They reported their findings in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE. Their argument is that the differences between H. sapiens and Neanderthals are not enough on their own to account for the extinction of Neanderthals. For one thing H. sapien genomes and those of Neanderthals are 99.84% GENETICALLY IDENTICAL. And to top it off they have fewer than 100 proteins that differ in their amino acid sequences!
Frankly, I think anthropologists have been rather arrogant in their assumptions about Neanderthals in the past. The stereotypical Neanderthal has been painted as the classical “caveman,” not to intelligent and wiped out by modern humans who had more brains and better spears. There might be some merit to that to a point as H. sapiens used a lighter spear that could be thrown further and, thus, it was a throwing spear. Neanderthals used a heavy thrusting spear as near as we can tell which required that they be in close range to the prey they were trying to kill. That said my point is this. Neanderthals have gotten a bad rap from anthropologists who have painted them as ignorant brutes when in fact emerging evidence points to the opposite!
We now know that Neanderthals had culture. We know that they buried their dead and they did so accompanied by rituals and the placing of flowers and primitive jewelry into the graves. Thus, Neanderthals must have had some sort of believe in a Higher Power. We also now know that Neanderthals made weapons and tools of various kinds and that they made and wore ornaments such as eagle claws. Further, we know that Neanderthals used ochre to make art, they ate plants and fish in addition to big game, they used fire, and they organized their living spaces in their caves. These are all signs of CULTURE! Additionally, we know that the Neanderthals were doing these things long BEFORE the arrival of H. sapiens in Europe and Asia! That eliminates the possibility that they simply copied modern humans. BTW the scientists analyzed data going back 200,000 years.
In their report Dr. VIlla and Professor Roebroeks said, “we conclude that all the archaeology based explanations for the demise of the Neanderthals….are FLAWED.” Amen to that!!
In fact, there are a number of recent studies that have given us evidence that Neanderthals interbred with H. sapiens. Some Neanderthal fossil remains show H. sapien-like characteristics and Neanderthal characteristics have been found in early specimens of H. sapiens in Europe. Further, anywhere from 1% to 4% of the DNA of people outside of Africa reveal Neanderthal genes! Genetic studies strongly suggest we reframe the debate over the demise of the Neanderthals because genetic evidence STRONGLY suggests they interbred with our ancient ancestors. Most likely that interbreeding took place in the Levant and Europe and I’d even go so far as to say it also occurred in Western Asia if not Central Asia as well. It’s been estimated that this interbreeding took place around 50 kya.
Like I said in my previous post mentioned above, Neanderthals never did go extinct. They interbred with early H. sapiens and we can still see some of their morphology in modern humans today with SOME even having the distinct bun at the base of their skulls. You can see characteristics of just about every other ancient human species in SOME modern humans as well. All of this suggests interbreeding between ancient human species perhaps more frequently than academia wishes to imagine! The concept of human evolution as a straight progressive line is a MYTH. In FACT, human evolution has been more like a twisted bush or braided river than a straight line. There has been both evolution AND de-evolution! Much of what I suggest will be proven one day as we continue genetic studies on the ancient genomes of our early human ancestors.