Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dude, is that a blade or a flake?

Once again our Neanderthal cousins-- my favorite underdogs of human evolution-- rise to the occasion. As a recent article --"Tools Test Debunks Dumb Neanderthals' Theory,"--on HealthDay reports, Neanderthals weren't the dumb 'cavemen' we've always made them out to be. For decades, theories have suggested that Cro-Magnons' tool making ability and intelligence were superior to the Neanderthals', and contributed to their demise. However, more recent experimentation has suggested that Homo sapiens did not necessarily have a distinct advantage over Neanderthals intelligence wise. Technically, experiments show the Neanderthals' 'flake' tools were just as efficient as the Cro-Magnons' blade tools. Click here to see full article.

Blade tools................................................................Flake tool

Then why did the Neanderthals die out? As has always been postulated, probably for several interrelated reasons. First, lack of reproductive success on the part of Neanderthals (infancy survival was low due to their robust size) was a major factor. Reproductive success may also have been affected by diet/environmental change, lack of resources, or interaction between the two species. Second, Neanderthals were evolutionary equipped for extreme cold, and the waning of the Ice Age changed their environment/diet, fairly quickly. Thirdly, along came the Cro- Magnon people from Africa, likely with diseases the Neanderthals were never exposed to. Competition between the species (Neanderthals and Homo sapiens co-existed in Europe for abt. 10,000 years) for food and resources may have further decimated the Neanderthal population.

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