The widely-held idea that Neanderthals were wiped out because they were intellectually inferior is not supported by scientific evidence, say experts.
The species — which is closely related to humans and lived between 350,000-40,000 years ago — might instead have disappeared because they interbred with humans, Paola Villa and Wil Roebroeks claim in a paper published yesterday.
Around 1.5%-2.1% of genomes of people outside of Africa are made up of Neanderthal inheritance. It is likely that the two groups encountered each around 50,000 years ago, in Europe and the Middle East.
The common perception that Neanderthals were wiped out by superior humans comes from the idea that modern humans developed cultural traditions and better intellects that helped them expand, as seen in archaeological finds. But recent finds show that there is less difference in what humans and Neanderthals left behind, the researchers say.
“Modern humans are usually seen as superior in a wide range of domains, including weaponry and subsistence strategies, which would have led to the demise of Neanderthals,” the researchers said. “This systematic review of the archaeological records of Neandertals and their modern human contemporaries finds no support for such interpretations.”