| 6 December 2021
Why did modern humans take so long to settle in Europe?
From three sites in Romania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic respectively, research have identified, and re-dated early human remains to between 40,000 - 50,000 years ago. However, these bones have produced a genetic profile that is not a match to any modern Europeans.
"These early settlements appear to have been created by groups of early modern humans who did not survive to pass on their genes," said Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London. "They are our species' lost lineages. The crucial point is that the demise of these early modern human settlers meant Neanderthals still occupied Europe for a further few thousand years before Homo sapiens eventually took over the continent."
One of the studies was a the dating of a female skull from the Zlatý Kůň cave in the Czech Republic, which was redated from being 15,000 years old to being at least 45,000 years old. This made the woman one of the oldest Homo Sapiens found in Europe. However, once again, this woman did not have any genetic matches to modern Europeans.
These lost outposts point towards the Homo Sapiens dispersed into Europe in pulses rather than one solid wave. This raises questions as to why certain groups failed while others saw great success. Other questions, as to what level interbreeding took place between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals over time and how this changed.
"As numbers of Homo sapiens grew and we spread ever wider across Europe, it is quite possible that we 'absorbed' some of the other species - in particular, the Neanderthals - out of existence," said Stringer. "If prime-age Neanderthals were entering the modern human breeding pool, whether voluntarily or otherwise, those individuals were no longer contributing to the survival of their own species. The end result would have been straightforward extinction for the Neanderthals - although, as a species, they still survive in the DNA of men and women today."
Edited from The Guardian (14 November 2021)
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