Information

Geographical Range of Neanderthals

Geographical Range of Neanderthals


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.


Homo heidelbergensis

Homo heidelbergensis (also H. sapiens heidelbergensis) is an extinct species or subspecies of archaic human which existed during the Middle Pleistocene. It was subsumed as a subspecies of H. erectus in 1950 as H. e. heidelbergensis, but towards the end of the century, it was more widely classified as its own species. It is debated whether or not to constrain H. heidelbergensis to only Europe or to also include African and Asian specimens, and this is further confounded by the type specimen (Mauer 1) being a jawbone, because jawbones feature few diagnostic traits and are generally missing among Middle Pleistocene specimens. Thus, it is debated if some of these specimens could be split off into their own species or a subspecies of H. erectus. Because the classification is so disputed, the Middle Pleistocene is often called the "muddle in the middle".

H. heidelbergensis is regarded as a chronospecies, evolving from an African form of H. erectus (sometimes called H. ergaster). By convention, H. heidelbergensis is placed as the most recent common ancestor between modern humans (H. sapiens or H. s. sapiens) and Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis or H. s. neanderthalensis). Many specimens assigned to H. heidelbergensis likely existed well after the modern human/Neanderthal split. In the Middle Pleistocene, brain size averaged about 1,200 cc, comparable to modern humans. Height in the Middle Pleistocene can only be estimated off remains from 3 localities: Sima de los Huesos, Spain, 169.5 cm (5 ft 7 in) for males and 157.7 cm (5 ft 2 in) for females 165 cm (5 ft 5 in) for a female from Jinniushan, China and 181.2 cm (5 ft 11 in) for a specimen from Kabwe, Zambia. Like Neanderthals, they had wide chests and were robust overall.

The Middle Pleistocene of Africa and Europe features the advent of Late Acheulian technology, diverging from earlier and contemporary H. erectus, and probably related to increasing intelligence. Fire likely became an integral part of daily life after 400,000 years ago, and this roughly coincides with more permanent and widespread occupation of Europe (above 45°N), and the appearance of hafting technology to create spears. H. heidelbergensis may have been able to carry out coordinated hunting strategies, and similarly they seem to have had a higher dependence on meat.


New insights into the late history of Neandertals

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have sequenced the genomes of five Neandertals that lived between 39,000 and 47,000 years ago. These late Neandertals are all more closely related to the Neandertals that contributed DNA to modern human ancestors than an older Neandertal from the Altai Mountains that was previously sequenced. Their genomes also provide evidence for a turnover in the Neandertal population towards the end of Neandertal history.

Due to the limited number of specimens and difficulties in obtaining endogenous DNA from such old material, the number of Neandertals for which nuclear genomes have been sequenced is still limited. Since 2010 whole genome sequences have been generated for four Neandertals from Croatia, Siberia and the Russian Caucasus. This study adds five new genomes representing Neandertals from a wider geographic range and from a later time period than what was previously obtained.

New methods for the removal of contaminating DNA from microbes and present-day humans that were developed by the Leipzig group have now enabled the researchers to sequence the genomes of five Neandertals from Belgium, France, Croatia, and Russia that are between 39,000 and 47,000 years old. These therefore represent some the latest surviving Neandertals in Europe.

Having genomes from multiple Neandertals allows the researchers to begin to reconstruct Neandertal population history. "We see that the genetic similarity between these Neandertals is well-correlated with their geographical location. By comparing these genomes to the genome of an older Neandertal from the Caucasus we show that Neandertal populations seem to have moved and replaced each other towards the end of their history", says first author, Mateja Hajdinjak.

The team also compared these Neandertal genomes to the genomes of people living today, and showed that all of the late Neandertals were more similar to the Neandertals that contributed DNA to present-day people living outside Africa than an older Neandertal from Siberia. Intriguingly, even though four of the Neandertals lived at a time when modern humans had already arrived in Europe they do not carry detectable amounts of modern human DNA. "It may be that gene flow was mostly unidirectional, from Neandertals into modern humans", says Svante Pääbo, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

"Our work demonstrates that the generation of genome sequences from a large number of archaic human individuals is now technically feasible, and opens the possibility to study Neandertal populations across their temporal and geographical range", says Janet Kelso, the senior author of the new study.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


Fast forward millennia to the recent riots in Charlottesville, which showed how volatile the issue of race still is in America. How can the study of DNA enlighten us?

In many ways, genetics makes a mockery of race. The characteristics of normal human variation we use to determine broad social categories of race—such as black, Asian, or white—are mostly things like skin color, morphological features, or hair texture, and those are all biologically encoded.

But when we look at the full genomes from people all over the world, those differences represent a tiny fraction of the differences between people. There is, for instance, more genetic diversity within Africa than in the rest of the world put together. If you take someone from Ethiopia and someone from the Sudan, they are more likely to be more genetically different from each other than either one of those people is to anyone else on the planet!


DISCOVERY AND GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Neandertal sites. “Carte Neandertaliens” by 120 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The earliest recognized discoveries were in Belgium and Gibraltar. The next discovery was the Neander Valley remains, which lent the name to the species. Fossil sites are ubiquitous in Western Europe, with the majority located in well-watered river valleys of France. More than 200 sites fall within a 20-mile radius of Les Ezies, France. There are also sites in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Some of the more famous sites are La Chapelle-aux-Saints, La Ferrassie, and St. Cesaire in France the aforementioned Neander Valley in Germany and Zafarraya Cave in Spain. The Chapelle-aux-Saints site has played a key role in the development of the myth of the neandertals as hulking, barbaric cavemen. The remains of an approximately 40-year-old male (see Figure 35.3) were excavated in 1908 and analyzed by Marcellin Boule, who characterized the individual as primitive, brutish, and hunched over. Researchers later realized that the adult was afflicted with arthritis, which accounted for his posture. While we cannot know how neandertals behaved relative to ourselves, they achieved a theretofore unprecedented level of cultural and technological complexity. The derogatory characterization stuck for many years until researchers realized just how much those ancient “peoples” had accomplished, such as intentional burial of their dead.

“Old Man” of La Chapelle-aux-Saints. “Homo sapiens neanderthalensis” by Luna04 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

From their supposed Western European origin, they spread east into the Middle East and as far east as Uzbekistan and northeast to Russia, in the area of the Denisovans. Some researchers do not accept that the nine-year-old boy at the site of Teshik Tash, Uzbekistan is neandertal, but rather they argue that he is AMH.

Non-classic neandertal sites are found in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Syria, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, the Ukraine, Iraq, Uzbekistan, and Israel. Famous sites include Krapina and Vindija in Yugoslavia the cave sites of Kebara, Amud, and Tabun in Israel Shanidar in Iraq and the aforementioned Teshik Tash in Uzbekistan.

The Israeli sites have been of interest for decades because they are seemingly contemporary with nearby AMH sites. There has been much speculation as to the nature of interactions between the two species. One theory is that when ice sheets blanketed much of Europe, the neandertals moved down into the Middle East along with other animals. The fact that AMH reached the Middle East by 120 kya but never entered Europe until after 40 kya suggested to some that the neandertals “held” Europe, preventing the encroachment of AMH. When moving down into the Middle East, neandertals may have pushed resident AMH out of the area. During subsequent warmer periods, AMH may have moved back into the area following the retreat of the neandertals to more northerly destinations. This idea of trading places has now been superseded by the idea of contemporaneity and interbreeding, at least by some groups at some point(s) in time.

Figure 35.2 illustrates the broad geographic range of the neandertals. It is likely that during glacial advances, populations moved south so that those in Western Europe were closer to the Mediterranean Sea and eastern neandertals may have pushed down into Israel and other warm areas, along with other animals. The fossil record indicates that animal herds moved up and down in latitude in accordance with climatic pulses, so it is very likely that hominin populations did as well. They were smart and may have inherited past cultural knowledge if they had language and theory of mind and, if for no other reason, they needed to eat and would have followed the game.

By the time that AMH moved into Western Europe

35 kya, the neandertals had begun to die out. They likely succumbed to the increasingly harsh climate. They also went through an evolutionary bottleneck at some point and lost some of their genetic diversity, possibly leaving them more vulnerable to disease. As in the Middle East, there has been much speculation about what went on when AMH arrived in Western Europe. While they likely carried neandertal genes (unless those western AMH left no modern descendants), they themselves may not have mated with neandertals, and certainly western populations would have appeared somewhat different than Middle Eastern neandertals. However, most eastern neandertals were gone by the time AMH passed through their former eastern geographic range, en route to Western Europe. It has been suggested that AMH outcompeted them either directly, which is known as contest competition, or indirectly, which is known as scramble competition, or possibly even killed them as they encountered them. Contest competition involves one group preventing another group from accessing resources, whereas scramble competition involves one group being better at gaining access to resources than the other. I always think of a bully defending a buffet table from others versus kids scrambling at an Easter egg hunt where some are better than others at getting to and/or finding eggs. It has also been widely accepted that the neandertals were marginalized as AMH encroached on their territory. Except for a more recent date from the Croatian site of Vindija (28 kya), the most recent dates are from the Iberian Peninsula, where it is thought they retreated and died out. Regardless of what transpired between the two species, since it appears that neandertals were on their way out, it is likely a moot point. It is rather fitting that after all of the years of thinking that humans played a role in the demise of the neandertals, it appears they made love not war (at least as far as we know)!


Acknowledgements

We thank A. Weihmann and B. Schellbach for their help with DNA sequencing R. Barr, P. Korlević and S. Tüpke for help with graphics D. Reich and M. Slatkin for discussions and input the Tourist Association STD “Bacho Kiro” in Dryanovo the History Museum in Dryanovo the Regional History Museum in Gabrovo the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Sofia and N. Spassov. M.H. is supported by a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship (no. 844014). Q.F. was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) (XDB26000000) of CAS, NSFC (41925009, 41630102, 41672021). O.T.M. and S.C. were supported by a grant from the Ministry of Research and Innovation, CNCS - UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P4-ID-PCCF-2016-0016, within PNCDI III and the EEA Grants 2014-2021, under Project contract no. 3/2019. F.W. received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 948365). P.S. was supported by the Vallee Foundation, the European Research Council (grant no. 852558), the Wellcome Trust (217223/Z/19/Z) and Francis Crick Institute core funding (FC001595) from Cancer Research UK, the UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. This study was funded by the Max Planck Society and the European Research Council (grant agreement no. 694707 to S.P.).


Extinction

No one knows exactly why Neanderthals went extinct and why Homo sapiens survived. Some scholars theorize that gradual or dramatic climate change led them to their demise, while others blame dietary deficiencies. Some theorize that humans killed the Neanderthals. Until recently the hypothesis that Neanderthals didn't go extinct but simply interbred with humans until they were absorbed into our species was popular.

Additional reporting by Alina Bradford, Live Science contributor.


Genomes of five late Neandertals provide insights into Neandertal population history

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have sequenced the genomes of five Neandertals that lived between 39,000 and 47,000 years ago. These late Neandertals are all more closely related to the Neandertals that contributed DNA to modern human ancestors than an older Neandertal from the Altai Mountains that was previously sequenced. Their genomes also provide evidence for a turnover in the Neandertal population towards the end of Neandertal history.

Due to the limited number of specimens and difficulties in obtaining endogenous DNA from such old material, the number of Neandertals for which nuclear genomes have been sequenced is still limited. Since 2010 whole genome sequences have been generated for four Neandertals from Croatia, Siberia and the Russian Caucasus. This study adds five new genomes representing Neandertals from a wider geographic range and from a later time period than what was previously obtained.

New methods for the removal of contaminating DNA from microbes and present-day humans that were developed by the Leipzig group have now enabled the researchers to sequence the genomes of five Neandertals from Belgium, France, Croatia, and Russia that are between 39,000 and 47,000 years old. These therefore represent some the latest surviving Neandertals in Europe.

Having genomes from multiple Neandertals allows the researchers to begin to reconstruct Neandertal population history. "We see that the genetic similarity between these Neandertals is well-correlated with their geographical location. By comparing these genomes to the genome of an older Neandertal from the Caucasus we show that Neandertal populations seem to have moved and replaced each other towards the end of their history," says first author, Mateja Hajdinjak.

The team also compared these Neandertal genomes to the genomes of people living today, and showed that all of the late Neandertals were more similar to the Neandertals that contributed DNA to present-day people living outside Africa than an older Neandertal from Siberia. Intriguingly, even though four of the Neandertals lived at a time when modern humans had already arrived in Europe they do not carry detectable amounts of modern human DNA. "It may be that gene flow was mostly unidirectional, from Neandertals into modern humans," says Svante Pääbo, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

"Our work demonstrates that the generation of genome sequences from a large number of archaic human individuals is now technically feasible, and opens the possibility to study Neandertal populations across their temporal and geographical range," says Janet Kelso, the senior author of the new study.


Neanderthals Made a Last Stand at Subarctic Outpost?

"Tool kit" may put Neanderthals in northern Russia—surviving later than thought.

A hardy band of Neanderthals may have made a last stand for their species at a remote outpost in subarctic Russia, a newfound prehistoric "tool kit" suggests.

The Ural Mountains site "may be one of the last [refuges] of the Neanderthals, and that would be very exciting," said study leader Ludovic Slimak, an archaeologist at France's Université de Toulouse le Mirail.

Neanderthals dominated Europe for some 200,000 years until modern humans began moving into the region about 45,000 years ago. The two human species likely shared space for a while, but it's a mystery what happened during that period, how long it lasted, and why Homo sapiens prevailed in the end.

Previous archaeological evidence had placed the last known Neanderthal refuges on the Iberian Peninsula, home to current-day Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar. (See "Neanderthals'' Last Stand Was in Gibraltar, Study Suggests.")

"Not surprisingly, it was in the peripheral areas"—Iberia and perhaps northwestern Europe—"that Neanderthals remained the longest as discrete populations," said Neanderthal expert Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who wasn't part of the new study.

But now hundreds of stone tools found at Byzovaya—a Russian site at the same chilly latitude as Iceland—could redraw the map of Neanderthals in Europe.

The dating of butchered mammoth bones and sand grains that surrounded the tools suggests the settlement was last occupied about 33,000 years ago. Both types of artifacts were radiocarbon dated and luminescence dated—a technique that determines when material was last exposed to sunlight.

By 33,000 years ago, all or most Neanderthals are believed to have died out. But the Byzovaya tools match those made and used by many Neanderthals, a signature tool kit of scrapers and flakes created by banging rocks together—what's called Mousterian technology.

Neanderthal Stone-Tool Evidence Not Rock Solid

Though the tools are distinctly Neanderthal, a definitive answer on who lived at Byzovaya 33,000 years ago remains elusive. No Neanderthal or other human remains have been found at Byzovaya, even though the site has been excavated since the 1960s.

But study leader Slimak stresses that, in Europe, these kinds of tools have been found at only Neanderthal sites and never this late in the record.

"What do we find during this period elsewhere in Europe?" Modern-human societies—and no Mousterian tools, he answered.

As a potential Neanderthal site, Slimak added, the settlement is notable not only for its recentness but also for its location—some 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) north of the generally accepted Neanderthal range. (Related: "Neanderthals Ranged Much Farther East Than Thought.")

Byzovaya Neanderthals, the new study implies, had figured out how to endure brutally cold climes.

"People of this culture, with these tools, lived in the Arctic landscape during a period when all of Europe was under very, very cold conditions," he said.

(Read "Last of the Neanderthals" from National Geographic magazine.)

Neanderthal Occupation Isn't Definitive

Tools alone can't be taken as definitive evidence that their users were Neanderthal rather than Homo sapiens, Washington University's Trinkaus cautioned.

"As noted by the authors, one has to be very careful of inferring human biological form from tool technology, especially around the [time of the] transition to modern humans," Trinkaus said.

For example, early modern humans are known to have used Neanderthal-style tools in southwest Asia, he said, so their presence isn't definitive proof of a Neanderthal occupation.

Even if it turns out that modern humans created the Byzovaya tools, the find would still be exciting, study leader Slimak said—it would be the first evidence that Homo sapiens in Europe carried on a Neanderthal technology after the Neanderthals themselves were gone.

No matter who made the tools, or when, one thing remains clear—there's little clarity in the human lineage, and there won't be anytime soon.

For one thing, Slimak said, when it comes to human ancestral species, "large parts of Eurasia remain largely unknown, or known only by the efforts of some pioneering researchers.

"Let's not be surprised to be scientifically surprised in the very near future."

This Neanderthal tool-kit study was published Friday in the journal Science.


Author contributions: J.-J.H. wrote the paper.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

↵ * Hawks and Wolpoff (46) have criticized this model on the basis of a statistical test. Among other problems, this test does not address the non-metrical features on which the accretion model was primarily established. It also combines two incompatible mathematical models: one (47) that addresses variance in the phenotypic means of groups connected by gene flow and in a state of equilibrium, and a second (48) that assesses a “scaled” square of generalized genetic distance, based on a model for splitting populations not connected by gene flow and not in equilibrium.