Neanderthals of Western Mediterranean did not become extinct because of changes in climate

Impression: Scientists sampled this 50-cm very long stalagmite in the Pozzo Cucù cave, in the Castellana Grotte region (Bari) and they carried out 27 substantial-precision datings and two,seven hundred analyses of carbon and…
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Credit score: Photograph: O. Lacarbonara

Homo Neanderthaliensis did not turn out to be extinct simply because of variations in climate. At the very least, this did not materialize to the several Neanderthals teams that lived in the western Mediterranean 42,000 yrs in the past. A research team of the College of Bologna came to this conclusion immediately after a in depth paleoclimatic reconstruction of the last ice age through the evaluation of stalagmites sampled from some caves in Apulia, Italy.

The researchers targeted on the Murge karst plateau in Apulia, exactly where Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens coexisted for at the very least three,000 yrs, from about 45,000 to 42,000 yrs in the past. This review was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Knowledge extracted from the stalagmites confirmed that climate variations that transpired all through that time span were being not notably major. “Our review demonstrates that this region of Apulia appears as a ‘climate niche’ all through the changeover from Neanderthals to Homo Sapiens” explains Andrea Columbu, researcher and initially creator of this review. “It won’t seem to be doable that major climate variations transpired all through that period of time, at the very least not impactful plenty of to result in the extinction of Neanderthals in Apulia and, by the identical token, in equivalent areas of the Mediterranean”.

THE Weather Transform Speculation

The speculation that a shifting climate was a variable in Neanderthals extinction (that transpired, in Europe, almost 42,000 yrs in the past) discovered appreciable assistance amid the scientific local community. According to this principle, all through the last ice age, sharp and fast variations in climate were being a decisive variable in Neanderthals’ extinction simply because of the significantly cold and dry climate.

We can find confirmation of these sharp variations in the evaluation of ice cores from Greenland and from other paleoclimatic archives of continental Europe. Nevertheless, when it will come to some Mediterranean areas exactly where Neanderthals experienced lived due to the fact one hundred,000 yrs in the past, the data inform a different story. The Western Mediterranean is loaded in prehistorical results and, right up until now, no one particular ever carried out a paleoclimatic reconstruction of these Neanderthals-occupied areas.


Wherever to find responses about the climate previous of the Western Mediterranean? The research team of the College of Bologna turned to the Murge plateau in Apulia. “Apulia is crucial to our knowledge of anthropological actions: we know that equally Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens lived there about 45,000 yrs in the past”, states Andrea Columbu. “Quite couple other areas in the world saw equally species co-existing in a reasonably modest area. This helps make the Murge plateau the ideal location to review the climate and the bio-cultural grounds of the changeover from Neanderthal to Sapiens”.

How is it doable to provide a climate reconstruction of this kind of a remote period of time? Stalagmites have the response. These rock formations increase from the flooring of karst caves thanks to ceiling h2o drippings. “Stalagmites are fantastic paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental archives”, explains Jo De Waele, research coordinator and professor at the College of Bologna. “Considering that stalagmites type through rainwater dripping, they provide unquestionable proof of the presence or absence of rain. Moreover, they are produced of calcite, which incorporates carbon and oxygen isotopes. The latter provide exact details about how the soil was and how substantially it rained all through the formation period of time of stalagmites. We can then cross these pieces of details with radiometric relationship, that provide an very exact reconstruction of the phases of stalagmites’ formation”.

A (Rather) Steady Weather

The pace at which stalagmites shaped is the initially major outcome of this review. Scientists discovered out that Apulian stalagmites confirmed a steady pace of dripping in the last and earlier ice ages. This implies that no abrupt transform in climate transpired all through the millennia less than investigation. A draught would have been seen in the stalagmites.

Amid all the stalagmites that were being analysed, one particular was notably suitable. Scientists sampled this 50-cm very long stalagmite in the Pozzo Cucù cave, in the Castellana Grotte region (Bari) and they carried out 27 substantial-precision datings and two,seven hundred analyses of carbon and oxygen secure isotopes. According to relationship, this stalagmite shaped amongst 106,000 and 27,000 yrs in the past. This stalagmite signifies the longest timeline of the last ice age in the western Mediterranean and in Europe. Moreover, this stalagmite did not clearly show any trace of abrupt variations in climate that could possibly have prompted Neanderthals’ extinction.

“The analyses we carried out clearly show little variation in rainfall amongst 50,000 and 27,000 yrs in the past, the extent of this variation is not plenty of to result in alterations in the flora inhabiting the natural environment earlier mentioned the cave”, states Jo De Waele. “Carbon isotopes clearly show that the bio-efficiency of the soil remained all in all steady all through this period of time that features the three,000 yrs-very long coexistence amongst Sapiens and Neanderthals. This implies that major variations in flora and as a result in climate did not materialize”.

THE Technology Speculation

The outcomes seem to be to clearly show that the spectacular variations in the climate of the last ice age experienced a different impression on the Mediterranean region than in continental Europe and Greenland. This could rule out the speculation that climate variations are responsible for Neanderthals dying out.

How do we clarify their extinction immediately after a couple millennia of coexistence with Homo Sapiens? Stefano Benazzi, a palaeontologist at the College of Bologna and one particular of the authors of the paper, offers an response to this problem. “The outcomes we received corroborate the speculation, place forward by many students, that the extinction of Neanderthals experienced to do with technology”, states Benazzi. “According to this speculation, the Homo Sapiens hunted applying a technology that was significantly much more state-of-the-art than Neanderthals’, and this represented a primary purpose to Sapiens’ supremacy about Neanderthals, that at some point became extinct immediately after three,000 yrs of co-existence”.


The review was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution with the title “Speleothem file attests to secure environmental ailments all through Neanderthal- present day human turnover in southern Italy”. Symbolizing the College of Bologna, we have Andrea Columbu, Veronica Chiarini and Jo De Waele from the Section of Organic, Geological and Environmental Sciences, and Stefano Benazzi from the Section of Cultural Heritage.

Other students also participated in the review: from the College of Innsbruck (Austria) exactly where the isotopic analyses were being carried out, from Melbourne College (Australia) and Xi’an Jiaotong College (China), that carried out the radiometric relationship.

Grotte di Castellana, the Apulian Speleology Affiliation and, for the significant portion, neighborhood speleology teams presented funding for this review.


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