Earlier Dates for Neanderthal Extinction


August 25, 2014

Recent recalculation of dates associated with bone and artifacts found at 40 Neanderthal sites has determined the last Neanderthals became extinct between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago.

The sites range from Russia to Spain. This new extinction date is at least 10,000 years earlier than the traditional date assigned to Neanderthal extinction. It is believed likely the earliest members of our species, Homo sapiens, migrating out of Africa, arrived in the eastern European area then occupied by Homo neanderthalensis was about 45,000 years ago. Thus, instead of the originally believed 15,000 years during which the two sister species overlapped, it now appears the overlap lasted no more than about 5,000 years.

These recalculations were revealed in an article appearing in the journal Nature last week.

These finds would seem to reinforce the hypothesis Neanderthals already were in decline. It seems likely more numerous arrivals from Africa swamped a declining population of a species resident in Europe for more than 200,000 years and outcompeted Neanderthals for food resources.

Search on “Neanderthals” and “Homo neanderthalensis” for earlier references to our sister species on this website.