Biology Magazine

Neanderthals Lived Further North Than We Thought

Posted on the 04 October 2018 by Reprieve @EvoAnth

Neanderthals lived during one of the coldest periods in recent (pre)history. They thrived through a bitter ice age that saw much of northern Europe covered in glaciers. Surely this limited how far north they lived.

However, researchers Nielsen et al. think we're selling Neanderthals short. The ice age was interspersed with warmer periods - well, what counts as warm during an ice age. Perhaps they spread north then 1.

Unfortunately for Nielsen and company's pet theory, the fossils are missing. We've not found any Neanderthal sites beyond Germany, even in those warmer times. So that's their idea blow out the water.

Or is it?

A gap in the record

Don't get me wrong, there is definitely a dearth of Neanderthal sites far north. The thing is, Nielsen et al. think that might be caused by something other than "no Neanderthals". Maybe we simply haven't found them yet 1.

Or rather, we may well have found them but we don't realise they were made by Neanderthals. We've found several sites in Denmark, but their age is uncertain. Without any associated fossils, it's hard to justify the claim Neanderthals lived there 1.

Part of this uncertainty - and general scarcity of sites that far north - might be a by-product of the following glaciation. As glaciers spread across Scandinavia, they often damaged the ground below them. Much of the evidence may simply have been smashed by the very ice age that makes people doubt Neanderthals lived there 1.

Those dastardly glaciers, they thought of everything!

Of course, this creates a bit of a problem for Nielsen et al. How can we figure out where Neanderthals lived when there's no evidence of, you know, where they lived?

Neanderthals lived in a computer

The Eemian period is one of the less harsh phases from the last glacial period. We've found more than 30 Neanderthal sites from this period that have a solid record of the local environment. Although they're all too far south to settle the debate over northern Neanderthals, they do give us a good idea of the conditions Neanderthals liked to live in 1.

So Nielsen et al. used this data to create a map of Europe, ranking regions on how close to "optimum Neanderthal" they fell. And, surprise surprise, a good chunk of Southern Scandinavia fell quite high on this ranking. So it seems that Nielsen et al. were right all along: Neanderthals could have made it further north than we thought 1.

Of course, a computer saying Neanderthals lived somewhere doesn't mean they actually did. There could be something else stopping them spreading north. Maybe there was a mountain in the way. Or they just didn't like the smell.

So Nielsen et al. also went looking for other factors which might limit their northwards expansion. Sure enough, they found the sea sometimes got in the way. Whilst landbridges existed across much of Scandinavia during the glacial period, sometimes the landscape looked more like it did today; cutting apart the landmasses. Thus, sometimes the Neanderthals would have been trapped south 1.

But not always. Sometimes the stars aligned and the sea levels dropped and the land remained habitable. During those periods there's no reason for the Neanderthals to not expand north. So perhaps they did 1.

Hopefully, now we can start looking for them outside of a computer.

References

  1. Nielsen, T.K., Benito, B.M., Svenning, J.C., Sandel, B., McKerracher, L., Riede, F. and Kjærgaard, P.C., 2017. Investigating Neanderthal dispersal above 55 N in Europe during the Last Interglacial Complex. Quaternary International, 431, pp.88-103.
  2. Lokrantz, H. and Sohlenius, G., 2006. Ice marginal fluctuations during the Weichselian glaciation in Fennoscandia, a literature review (No. SKB-TR-06-36). Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co..

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Big Food Giants Manipulate Public Health Policy in China

    Food Giants Manipulate Public Health Policy China

    Coca-Cola is at it again. As soda sales decline in the United States and Europe, beverage companies look to emerging economies like China for growth. And, it... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Jewellery for a Precious You

    Jewellery Precious

    Jewellery is always close to a woman’s heart. It completes her look and boost confidence. Considering the changing trends in jewellery fashion, it becomes... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Dr.jenifer Sayyed
    LIFESTYLE
  • Rajshri Productions’ Next Is A Film On Friendship | Hum Chaar | Trailer

    Abhishek Dixit’s debut feature film Hum Chaar is a Bollywood film made under the banner of Rajshri’s film. Hum Chaar is written and directed by Abhishek Dixit. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Themoviean
    ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIES
  • Saint Paul the First Hermit

    Saint Paul First Hermit

    Today is the feast day of Saint Paul the hermit. This is a sweet and delicate Oatmeal Bread topped with rolled oats and naturally sweetened with agave. Saint... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Veronica46
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Irupathiyonnaam Noottaandu | Teaser | Pranav Mohanlal | Arun Gopy

    Arun Gopy’s Irupathiyonnaam Noottaandu is an upcoming Malayalam action-drama feature film starring Pranav Mohanlal and Zaya David in the lead roles. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Themoviean
    ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIES
  • A Year Of Body Positivity

    Year Body Positivity

    Last January, as I sat there on New Years eve all set to make the same old resolutions I've made year after year for as long as I can remember, I realised how... Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Sparklesandstretchmarks
    DIARIES, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – Jan 2019

    Garden Bloggers Bloom 2019

    Euphorbia rigidaWhen I went out to take the photos for this blog post I was surprised at how much was in flower dotted around the garden. Read more

    The 15 January 2019 by   Patientgardener
    GARDENING, HOME

Magazines