Washington, January 8 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have found evidence that modern humans might have attacked, killed, and driven Neanderthals to extinction.
Neanderthals are an extinct species that shared a common ancestor with Homo sapiens.
For thousands of years, Neanderthals were the only hominids living in Europe and parts of Asia.
Then, around 50,000 years ago, early modern humans migrated into Europe from Africa. By 28,000 to 30,000 years ago, the Neanderthals had disappeared.
There are many theories regarding the reason behind the wipeout of the Neanderthals, but not a lot of proof.
According to a report by CBS News, Steven Churchill, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University, performed an experiment to see whether modern humans might have killed the ancient hominids.
The test subject for Churchill was Shanidar 3, a roughly 40-year-old Neanderthal male whose remains were uncovered in the 1950s in Shanidar Cave in northeastern Iraq.
Neanderthals were the power-thrusters of the Paleolithic world, driving their heavy spears with great kinetic energy and momentum into bison, boar, and deer.
If Shanidar 3 had been injured by such a thrust, it would suggest that he had gotten into a fight with another Neanderthal, or perhaps that he had been hurt in a hunting accident.
But, if the wound had resulted from a lighter spear-from a projectile deftly thrown at a distance, with less momentum and energy, the attacker was most likely human.
"There is no evidence whatsoever that Neanderthals ever used throwing spears," Churchill said.
After inflicting a set of sample wounds on pig bones, which are close in terms of size and shape to those of Neanderthals, Churchill and his team of students spent an evening cleaning the bones by boiling them in hot water and Biz, a laundry detergent containing enzymes that are, according to Churchill, "really good at breaking down proteins."
The process revealed signs of damage to the pig bones similar to those seen in Shanidar 3.
"We cannot definitively rule out accidental wounding, attack with a knife, or attack with a hand-delivered, heavy Neanderthal spear," Churchill said.
"But, Shanidar 3's wound is most consistent with injury from a lightweight, long-range projectile weapon," he added.
In other words, a human probably did it.
But, it is impossible to know exactly how major a role human aggression played in the Neanderthals' disappearance.
The groups undoubtedly competed for resources, though, and evidently humans sometimes attacked or even ate Neanderthals.
The death of Shanidar 3 may thus have foreshadowed the fate of his entire species. (ANI)