The real reason why Neanderthals, our caveman cousins, died out was because they were too smart for their own good, a new study has suggested.
According to researchers from Arizona State University, rather than being outwitted by the superior intellect of modern man, the extinct members of the ‘Homo genus’ were every bit as sophisticated.
Their brains and charms led to them being sought as mates by our ancestors, who, due to simple numbers, soon began to rule the roost.
The researchers came up with the theory after running data about life in Europe and Asia during the last Ice Age through a computer program.
Neanderthals and modern humans lived alongside each other for thousands of years during that time, before the former became extinct 30,000 years ago.
The study suggests that as the two peoples roamed further in the search for food, the Neanderthals were slowly absorbed by the more numerous modern humans, until they disappeared as a recognisable population.
Professor Julien Riel-Salvatore from the University of Colorado said that the interbreeding meant that their own line died out.
“We designed theoretical and methodological frameworks that incorporated feedback across three evolutionary systems: biological, cultural and environmental,” the Daily Mail quoted Michael Barton, the lead author of the study as saying.
“One scientifically interesting result of this research, which studied culturally and environmentally driven changes in land-use behaviours, is that it shows how Neanderthals could have disappeared not because they were somehow less fit than all other hominins who existed during the last glaciation, but because they were as behaviourally sophisticated as modern humans,” he said.
Modern humans probably saw the Neanderthals as possible mates, and as a result, over time, the Neanderthals died out.
“It’s been long believed that Neanderthals were outcompeted by fitter modern humans and they could not adapt,” Riel-Salvatore, co-author of the study, said.
The study has been published in the journal Human Ecology.