Physical Anthropology

Neanderthal Interaction with Cro Magnons

Richard Sprigg - 416921's image for:
"Neanderthal Interaction with Cro Magnons"
Image by: 

Any article that deals with the field of Paleoanthropology must, of necessity, take account of the disparate views that exist at the highest levels on this subject.

In this article, I shall attempt to delineate the opposing views without any intentional bias towards one side or the other. I confess frankly that I do not know which theory is correct.

Modern men are often referred to as Cro-Magnons after the place the first fossils were found.

Neandertal are named after the German valley where their fossils were first found.

The Mainstream view, known as the "Out of Africa" theory, (Klien et al) holds that modern man evolved in Africa, and then spread across the globe from that one source.
There was no interaction between these modern men and the Neandertal, Modern men were hunter gatherers who roamed around and migrated from place to place, while the Neandertal stayed in one place, near a constant food source.

There was no interbreeding between the two, demonstrated, it is asserted, by the lack of Neandertal Mitochondrial DNA in modern humans. It is postulated that there was some kind of genetic aversion, given the tendency of human males to have sex with just about anything.

The travelling caused the modern men to develop language, since they needed a means of communication for those times when they met other, like groups.
The ability to communicate hastened the transfer of technology between groups, as is inferred from the record, as technology spreads out from a central source.

The communication led inexorably to a need to assert status, as evidenced by intricate ornamentation found in various grave sites.

The Neandertal, being static, had less need for communication, and did not develop sophisticated communication skills. The record shows groups of Neandertal living a few miles apart, yet one would develop a type of tool (i.e. fishhooks) while the other did not. Thus technology could not be exchanged easily if at all.

Over time, then, the Neandertal just died out as being unable to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, the last ones being about 10,000 years ago. This is the "replacement theory".

The opposing view (Wolpoff et al) asserts that modern man in fact evolved in several different places at around the same time period, that modern humans and Neanderthals did interbreed, and that Neanderthal DNA is present in some modern populations.

Since Mitochondrial DNA is Matrilinear, it's absence would only argue for the absence of female Neandertals in any such interbreeding.

Evidence for this includes features of bone structure common in modern Europeans that were more often found in European Neandertal than in other groups, and parsimony would thus suggest a common ancestry.

Other evidence relates to the development of language: there being, obviously no fossil record of speech, Wolpoff looks to gene mutations and the changing physiology of the throat to assert that there is no reason that language should have been common to both modern and Neandertal humans.

More about this author: Richard Sprigg - 416921

From Around the Web