The mystery of Neanderthal man’s disappearance



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For about 200,000 years, the Neandertalensis man (Homo neanderthalensis) peacefully occupied all of Eurasia. But about 28,000 years ago, it suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.

Several theories have been developed to explain this disappearance. The best-founded hypothesis questioned the strong climatic variations to which Neanderthal man could not have adapted. However, it now seems true, in light of the latest findings, that the climate thesis does not apply to all areas occupied by Neanderthals.

In 2012, Michaël Barton of the University of Arizona proposed a new theory, supporting the thesis already proposed on a disappearance that would simply be due to a cross between the two species.

Different theories on the disappearance of Homo neanderthalensis

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We lose track of the Neanderthals from 28,000 years old. The last traces were discovered in Gorham’s cave on the rock of Gibraltar. However, it is very likely that small population groups have survived after that date, but we have no evidence of this at this time.

It should be noted that the exact date of the disappearance of Neanderthals remains a controversial issue. Several dates have been proposed. Chronologies are largely based on carbon dating 14.

We have to face facts: the species is barely extinct in a few thousand years, shortly after another species, Homo sapiens, the first modern man and our immediate ancestor, began to populate Europe itself.

Hence the questioning of scientists.

Would modern man have helped eliminate an embarrassing rival?

The theory of genocide is contradicted by the duration of coexistence, especially since no evidence of massacre has yet been detected. This thesis was definitely abandoned by scientists. It seems the two species were ignored.

The epidemic was also mentioned. We know very well that a species is always weakened by a low population. But we have no evidence to support this theory.

However, the total population of Neanderthals has never been very large. Scientists estimate that it has never exceeded 15,000 individuals. This is an important point that is certainly not unrelated to his disappearance.

A crossroads with Homo sapiens?

Today, anthropologists have acquired a finer understanding of the time it takes to complete a genetic mutation.

From the point of view of evolution, 10,000 years is nothing. If 100,000 years ago something happened that led to the appearance of a hominid that adapted better to survival than Neanderthal man, it can only be a minor physiological change.

At the same time, however, this change would have had such an effect on the species’ resistance that it could have supplanted the Neanderthal man.


In the last fifty years, scientists have also discovered how impassable barriers between species can be. We now know that living beings cannot mate with beings of another species, not even very close to each other, to give a progeny that can reproduce.

However, this does not seem to apply to the Neanderthal man either. In fact, the latest DNA evidence shows that Neanderthals were very close to Homo sapiens.

Genetically, Neanderthals are 99.5% equal to modern humans.

In May 2010, a study by Svante Pääbo of the Max-Planck Institute (Germany) showed that between 1 and 4% of our genome comes from Neanderthal humans.

So there was a reproduction between the two species. The progeny passed on this genetic heritage from generation to generation.

The Neanderthal man would not have disappeared, but he would have been absorbed. Michaël Barton and his team conducted simulations of Sapiens and Neanderthal’s trips in Europe. Sixty thousand years ago, the two populations didn’t mix. However, 30,000 years ago, under the influence of the ice age, the two populations coexisted in the same territories.

According to this anthropologist, the crossing could take place in