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The Neanderthals lived in areas ranging from Western Europe through central Asia from about 200,000 to between 36,000 and 24,000 years ago. The Neanderthals lived in groups of 30 to 50 individuals, they invented many of the tool types that were to be perfected by fully sapient peoples, they had weapons adequate to deal with both the cave lion and cave bear, they used body paint, buried their dead. Neanderthal Man survived through the Ice Age. They are thought to have had fire. Neanderthals lived side by side with modern humans for over 10,000 years.
There are many theories on why the Neanderthals disappeared. Most of them involve Homo Sapiens in one way or another, considering that the Neanderthal's extinction coincides with the early human's estimated arrival in Europe from their original home in Africa.
The first theory states that modern humans killed off the Neanderthals. With a much more sophisticated technology, Neanderthals would have had to compete with modern humans for their meals. This would have definitely led to fight with starvation and a decrease in the overall Neanderthal population, which could have been the cause of extinction. Also, in contrast to Cro-Magnons, who lived to well into there fifties, Neanderthals had a much shorter life span, barely surviving until the age of forty. The Neanderthals may have reacted to the new humans as enemies. Since the modern humans are presumed to have been smarter than the Neanderthals, and since modern humans are still alive today, this theory concludes that fighting wiped the Neanderthals out. However, this theory does have its faults. First of all, why would two cultures begin to fight after many thousands of years of peaceful coexistence? Also, it shows a lot of human arrogance to assume that early man could take an entire species that was stronger and almost as smart as them and fight it to extinction.
The second theory suggests that diseases introduced by the modern humans to whom Neanderthal man was not immune wiped out Neanderthals. It is possible that when Cro-Magnon man first encounter Neanderthal man, he could have introduced new devastating diseases, as the conquistadors did in Latin America. Neanderthals, not being immune to these illnesses would have quickly perished. However, it can also be considered that when the two human races met, war quickly followed. Cro-Magnon man may have possibly exterminated the Neanderthals. In early human history, man has fought his own race for years to justly claim or protect what he considers his. Although this theory is plausible, it is not probable, considering that the Neanderthals lived in close proximity to modern man for so long. Still, it is possible that there was a disease, which caused the Neanderthals to die out.
The last theory states that Neanderthals were not in fact a separate species, but interbred to a greater or lesser extent with the incoming Homo sapiens, whose genes eventually became dominant at the eventual expense of the genes delivering Neanderthal characteristics. This hypothesis comes from the fact that Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons inhabited the same regions of Europe for thousands of years. It is not beyond a doubt that they did come in contact with one another, possibly even trading and communicating.
Neanderthals and modern humans became one species, through thousands of years of interbreeding. Supporters of this theory state that some modern day Europeans have facial features similar to Neanderthal man. Neanderthal genes may have been inserted into the human gene pool, and Human genes may have been added to the Neanderthals. At this point, Neanderthals and humans may have evolved together at an incredible rate, becoming one race in a relatively short period of time. On the other hand, a disease, a war, or an increase in population causing the natural resources to be inadequate for keeping so many hominids alive might have cut off Neanderthals suddenly from contact with the humans, possibly.
In conclusion we may never be sure of the fate of the Neanderthals...
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