The timing and spatiotemporal patterning of Neanderthal disappearance

Tom Higham, Katerina Douka, Rachel Wood, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Fiona Brock, Laura Basell, Marta Camps, Alvaro Arrizabalaga, Javier Baena, Cecillio Barroso-Ruíz, Christopher Bergman, Coralie Boitard, Paolo Boscato, Miguel Caparrós, Nicholas J. Conard, Christelle Draily, Alain Froment, Bertila Galván, Paolo Gambassini, Alejandro Garcia-MorenoStefano Grimaldi, Paul Haesaerts, Brigitte Holt, Maria-Jose Iriarte-Chiapusso, Arthur Jelinek, Jesús F. Jordá Pardo, José-Manuel Maíllo-Fernández, Anat Marom, Julià Maroto, Mario Menéndez, Laure Metz, Eugène Morin, Adriana Moroni, Fabio Negrino, Eleni Panagopoulou, Marco Peresani, Stéphane Pirson, Marco de la Rasilla, Julien Riel-Salvatore, Annamaria Ronchitelli, David Santamaria, Patrick Semal, Ludovic Slimak, Joaquim Soler, Narcís Soler, Aritza Villaluenga, Ron Pinhasi, Roger Jacobi

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

    420 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Thetiming of Neanderthal disappearanceandtheextent to whichthey overlapped with the earliest incoming anatomically modern humans (AMHs)inEurasia arekey questions inpalaeoanthropology1,2 .Deter- mining the spatiotemporal relationship between the two populations is crucial if we are to understand the processes, timing and reasons leading to the disappearance of Neanderthals and the likelihood of cultural and genetic exchange. Serious technical challenges, however, havehinderedreliable datingof the period,as theradiocarbonmethod reaches its limit at 50,000 years ago3 .Herewe apply improved accel- erator mass spectrometry 14C techniques to construct robust chro- nologies from 40 key Mousterian and Neanderthal archaeological sites, ranging fromRussia toSpain.Bayesianagemodellingwas used togenerate probability distributionfunctions todetermine the latest appearancedate.Weshowthat theMousterianendedby41,030–39,260 calibratedyears BP(at95.4%probability) acrossEurope.Wealsodem- onstrate that succeeding ‘transitional’ archaeological industries, one ofwhich has beenlinked withNeanderthals (Cha ˆtelperronian)4 ,end at a similar time. Our data indicate that the disappearance of Nean- derthals occurred at different times in different regions.Comparing the data with results obtained fromthe earliest datedAMHsites in Europe, associated with the Uluzzian technocomplex5 , allows us to quantify the temporal overlap between the two human groups. The results revealasignificantoverlap of 2,600–5,400years (at 95.4%prob- ability).This hasimportant implications formodels seeking toexplain the cultural, technological and biological elements involved in the replacement of Neanderthals byAMHs.Amosaic of populations in Europe during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition suggests that there was ample time for the transmission of cultural and sym- bolic behaviours, as well as possible genetic exchanges, between the two groups.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)306-309
    Number of pages4
    JournalNature
    Volume512
    Issue number7514
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2014

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