Theoretical Considerations on the Extinction of Homo Neanderthalis:
How and Why Did it Happen?
One of the debates that has raged among anthropologists for over a century is the issue of Homo neanderthalis – what are the circumstances of the extinction of this species? Over time a variety of hypotheses have been posited; some have been disproven, others remain on the table of debate. Many factors contribute to the unresolved nature of the problem, ranging from limited information, contradictory evidence, and an increasingly curious mystery regarding the gradual decline of the population while temporally coexistent with Homo sapiens.
An interesting observation can be made about the ...view middle of the document...
The fossil record for this particular time period is exceptional and permits us to continually find new ways of evaluating and understanding our evolutionary past. This is compounded by the fact that Homo neanderthalis was so remarkably similar to Homo sapiens at the time. With this knowledge comes the ability to understand where we are going and, hopefully, make ethical decisions regarding future social choices.
The similarities between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalis are plethoric. With regard to brain size, both species are similar. A few key things differentiate the two species. Firstly is the Neanderthals’ adaptation to cold weather. Anthropologists have speculated the distinct physiological features of this species are related to adaptation to cold climates, due to the similarities of these to phenotypes of Homo sapiens residing in arctic climates. In the late 19th century, the paleoanthropological record led certain anthropologists to consider the species a “pathological” variant of Homo sapiens. This was largely on account of the stocky and muscular build of the Homo neanderthalis.
Professor Raph Holloway from Columbia University, an expert on ancient brains, examined the skull found in 1848, I Gibraltar. He determined that the brain of this creature was 20% larger than that of a modern man, but in other ways was anatomically identical. One very interesting difference was in the tiny bone in the throat, the hyoid bone, which supports the soft tissue of the throat. The Neanderthals vocal tract seems to have been shorter and wider than modern males – bearing more resemblance to that of modern females. The common conception of the Neanderthal as a grunting creature is easily dispelled when examining the vocal cord. The Neanderthal vocal cord is constructed similarly enough to a modern human’s to be able to produce the complex range of sounds necessary for speech.
Given the range of similarities between the two species, we can see that there were not any definite physical advantages that Homo sapiens had over the Neanderthals. In terms of communication and physical adaptation to land, aside from minor difference, both were for the most part equals. What remains in determining why the Neanderthals went extinct must be either an inability to adapt culturally or competing with rivals in the race for resources.
The Recent Single Origin Hypothesis, or Out-of-Africa theory, suggests that early modern humans suddenly emerged out of Africa and did not intermingle with other hominids that they encountered in Europe and elsewhere. Instead, this new population “replaced” existing hominids through whatever means, either by winning the competition for resources, possessing more viable adaptations in the form of cultural practices, or having executed some form of ancient genocide. All of these possibilities most certainly would fit the model we have for Neanderthal extinction
If we look at the last several thousand years that modern man has...