Neanderthals were able to adapt to climate change

Forum Science Neanderthals were able to adapt to climate change

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    Neanderthals were able to adapt to climate change

    JL Locht and JP Faivre Neanderthals were often seen as populations seeking refuge in southern Europe during ice ages and whose very disappearance would be attributed to climate change they would not have been able to cope with. . An international team of archaeologists, ecologists and modelers of the undermines this idea by showing that the Neanderthals of and of France produced technological innovations to continue to exploit their territories between 70,000 and 60,000 years before the present, during a strong cooling of the climate. These results appeared in the journal .

    The idea that Neanderthals carried cultures that were relatively simple and impervious to innovation has been repeatedly contradicted in recent years by findings showing the of their technical and symbolic behavior. The idea still persists that these populations were unable to adapt to major environmental changes and preferred to seek refuge in the more southern areas of the during the most severe phases of the ice ages. On several occasions, climate change has been mentioned as the only reason for their disappearance, and this even before the arrival of Modern Men in Europe.

    To verify the hypothesis of an alleged inability of Neanderthals to cope with climate change, a team of researchers from several nationalities (French, American, and Ecuadorian) belonging to , at National d’, INRAP, and from Kansas, including scientists from the Prehistory to Modern Laboratories: , and Anthropology (PACEA – CNRS / Univ. Bordeaux / Ministry of Culture), Natural history of prehistoric (HNHP – CNRS / MNHN / Univ. Perpignan Via Domitia) and the Laboratory of : Quaternary and Current Environments (LGP – CNRS / Univ. Panthéon-Sorbonne / Univ. Paris-Est Créteil Val-de-Marne), applied a technique which has proven itself in ecology, called modeling of , to French Neanderthal sites dated between 82,000 and 60,000 BC.

    The period concerned covers the end of the last interglacial, characterized by climatic conditions close to the current one and, from 70,000 years ago, a glacial, called Isotopic 4. The interest of ecological niche modeling is that it allows, by using the localization of sites attributed to different archaeological cultures and high resolution climatic models, to identify the ecological niches exploited by each Neanderthal culture and to be able to compare them in a quantified way.

    It was by reconstructing their successive niches that the researchers realized that on the arrival of the extreme cold of Isotopic Stage 4, some Neanderthal communities changed their ways of making tools by inventing a method of cutting and retouching tools called “Quina”, from the eponymous site in Charentes, and continued to exploit the same territories. The comparison of the niches shows that, contrary to what one would have expected, these communities did not seek more in the territories similar to those to which they were adapted, but remained in place by facing climate change with technological innovations.

    The result of this behavior is a smaller niche and of that of the previous period, compared to its environmental. The researchers note that the Quina is more flexible than that used before and allows to re-sharpen the tools several times, making the Neanderthal groups less dependent on the sources of raw materials and in particular of good quality flint. This allowed them greater mobility and indicates their great ability to adapt to changing environments.

    Reference:
    Banks WE, Moncel M-H, Raynal J-P, Cobos ME, Romero-Alvarez D, Woillez M-N, Faivre J-P, Gravina B, d’Errico F, Locht J-L, Santos F. An ecological niche shift for Neanderthal populations in Western Europe 70,000 years ago. . 2021.

    Contacts:
    – William Banks – From Prehistory to the Present: Culture, Environment and Anthropology (PACEA – CNRS / University of Bordeaux / Ministry of Culture) – william.banksv at u-bordeaux.fr
    – Anne Cecile Baudry-Jouvin – – From Prehistory to the Present: Culture, Environment and Anthropology (PACEA – CNRS / University of Bordeaux / Ministry of Culture) – Anne-Cecile.Jouvin at fsab.cnrs.fr

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Forum Science Neanderthals were able to adapt to climate change