A new study of microscopic particles of volcanic glass has revealed that a huge eruption 40,000 years ago was not responsible for the demise of Neanderthals. It seems that modern humans are probably the likely culprit.
The team collected samples containing CI cryptotephra from four central European caves where stone tools and other artifacts typical of Neandertals and modern humans have been found. They also gathered the particles from a modern human site in Libya and from marshland and marine sites in Greece and the Aegean Sea. The results, the team argues in a paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are incompatible with the hypothesis that the CI was responsible for Neandertal extinction, at least in central Europe. The CI cryptotephra lie above, and so postdate, the transition from Neandertal to modern human stone tool types at all four central European sites, indicating that modern humans had replaced Neandertals before the catastrophic events of 40,000 years ago.
Story: Michael Balter, Science Magazine | Photo: Suzanne MacLachlan/BOSCORF/National Oceanography Centre, U.K.