Lava Killed Neanderthals

We have identified evidence that the disappearance of Neanderthals in the Caucasus coincides with a volcanic eruption at about 40,000 BP. …  The coeval volcanic eruptions (from a large Campanian Ignimbrite eruption to a smaller eruption in the Central Caucasus) … forced the fast and extreme climate deterioration (“volcanic winter”) of the Northern Hemisphere. … The most significant advantage of early modern humans over contemporary Neanderthals was geographic localization in the more southern parts of western Eurasia and Africa. … Major technological and social innovations [appeared] shortly after 40,000 BP. (more)

More evidence that disasters matter, and evolution can be pretty random.

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  • Will Newsome

    It’s not nice to link to potentially interesting but gated information. It’s like making fun of people for being poor. 🙁

    Hypotheses as to why disaster times would foster low-level cultural/technological innovation? Or what proportion of the Neanderthals were killed by the eruption? Or how this is related to their total extinction/admixture 15,000 years later?

  • If current research showing closer genetic similarity of Neanderthals to non-African humans than to African humans is correct, Neanderthals never died off, they just merged with much larger genetic pool from the South, and there is no story to explain.

    Counting African populations as 0% Neanderthal, we’re something like 1-4% Neanderthal. Of course once we accept that mixing happened, then 0% figure is obviously wrong, so real numbers will be more like 5%-10% range.

  • To be pedantic, volcanoes are blamed but not lava specifically. Volcanoes emit lots of other stuff.

    • Cyan

      Beaten to the nitpick!

  • Tim Tyler

    I don’t think it is very controversial that disasters can do you in if you have a tiny population and are teetering on the brink of extinction.