According to a recent study carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Cologne in Germany, the succession of dry and cold phases during the last European ice-age caused the Neanderthals populations to diminish. Eventually, the climate change caused them to go extinct and contributed to the rise of the modern humans.
The earliest humans roamed in Europe about 600,000-700,000 years ago when dense forests covered the region and large mammals like elephants, rhinoceroses, horses, deer and large bovines inhabited the area. Back then, several ancient human species were living together in the same regions. However, the Neanderthals were the dominant species across Europe from approximately 350,000 to 40,000 years ago.
When about 100,000 years ago the climate change occurred and caused the ice-age, characterized by a massive drop in temperatures, among others, Central Europe transformed into an inhospitable region of the continent. Some 60,000 years ago, the Neanderthals moved to the southern borders of Europe just to survive the cold.
Scientists recreated the climate change patterns of 40,000 years ago
But at the same moment, the climate was fluctuating from long periods of cold to brief warm seasons, causing the forest to decline and turn into a tree-less tundra. According to the pieces of evidence, the Neanderthals traces vanished from the region of Central Europe about 40,000 years ago, while proofs of the presence of modern humans emerged in the same period.
Studying the annually deposited layers of stalagmites from two caves in modern-day Romania, researchers managed to recreate the climate of the Central Europe of more than 40,000 years ago. Accordingly, the climate change destabilized and deteriorated the weather in the region causing a dry and cold climate.
In the dry and cold phase, the Neanderthals moved far from the area to survive, while in the warmer period that followed the people who came back and inhabited the Central Europe region were already modern humans coming from the southern borders of the continent where they reached from the Near East. Eventually, the Neanderthals, fundamentally a society based on hunting, went extinct as there was nothing left to hunt.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.