Caveman Digest – WIF Ancient History

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Theories About

Why the


Died Out

Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis… or, humans and Neanderthals… started to diverge from a common ancestor, Homo erectus, about 700,000 years ago. Then our species completely branched off about 300,000 years ago.

On average, Neanderthals were shorter than humans and they had a stockier build. They also had angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses. Like humans, they used tools, controlled fire, and buried their dead. Also, while they are often depicted as dumb, savage brutes, researchers believe they were as intelligent as humans.

They lived in Eurasia, from about Spain to western Siberia, and while the date of their extinction is debated, it’s believed that they died out somewhere between 30,000 to 42,000 years ago. Why they went extinct is one of the biggest mysteries in evolutionary science. So why did our ancestral cousins die out?

10. We Were Better Hunters

The Neanderthals went extinct not long after humans migrated out of Africa into Eurasia. Since the Neanderthals ruled Europe for so long before the arrival of humans, and suddenly died off after coming into contact with them, it has led researchers to believe that humans were somehow responsible, at least in part, for the extinction.

One theory as to how humans drove Neanderthals to extinction was because we were better hunters. This became a problem because, with only a limited amount of food, there would have been competition for it. Since we’re here and they aren’t, it would suggest that we were better hunters and got most of the food. This would have caused the Neanderthal population to plummet, while the human population would have gone up.

9. Humans Violently Replaced Them

Throughout history, groups of humans have had a tendency to kill, enslave, or conquer other groups of people who are different from them. Why would prehistoric humans be any different when they came into contact with the Neanderthals?

When humans migrated out of Africa, they may have been more aggressive and more violent than the Neanderthals because that was advantageous to their hunting style. Meanwhile, it’s believed that the Neanderthals were less violent because they didn’t hunt in the same way. Instead of hunting and chasing down big animals, to get their protein they ate insects.

If they were more peaceful by nature, the Neanderthals would have been unable to fight off the growing population of violent human brutes who invaded their territory.

8. Volcanic Eruption

An event that can have profound effects on the Earth is the eruption of a large volcano. When a volcano erupts, millions of cubic tons of ash and debris can be put into the atmosphere and this alters the climate of the Earth by making it cooler, because less sun reaches the Earth.

Well 39,000 years ago, around the same time that the Neanderthals started to go extinct, the Campi Flegrei volcano west of Naples, Italy had a massive eruption. It was the biggest eruption in Europe in 200,000 years and 60 cubic miles of ash was pumped into the atmosphere.

This would have had devastating effects on the Neanderthals. The sun would have been blotted out for months, if not years. This would have cooled temperatures in Europe and it would have brought acid rain. These types of conditions would have made the environment inhospitable to the Neanderthals, causing them to die out. As the ash dispersed and the Neanderthals were dying off, humans would have moved into Europe with little resistance.

7. Humans Hunted With Wolves

Around the time that the Neanderthals went extinct, there were three top predators competing for food in Europe: the Neanderthals, humans, and wolves. According to anthropologist Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University an alliance between the wolves and the humans led to the extinction of the Neanderthals. His theory is that humans were able to tame and breed wolves. These wolf-dogs would have been used to get large animals, like mammoths, cornered so humans could finish them off. Cornering the animal was the most dangerous part of the hunt.

Also, when humans would bring down the animals and started to cut it apart, they would had to fight off scavengers, but the wolves would have been able sense scavengers from longer distances and they would have scared them off. Then the humans would feed the wolves and this would have been a win-win situation for the two top predators.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the Neanderthals used wolves to hunt. Without their help, prey would have been more dangerous to hunt and they would have to exert more energy while hunting, meaning they needed more food to sustain themselves. This would have made it hard for the Neanderthal population to maintain and grow their population, especially when two of their competitors teamed up to fight for the same resources that they needed.

6. Humans Had More Culture

According to a mathematical model from Stanford University, the reason that humans are still around and the Neanderthals aren’t is that humans had a high level of culture. By having a stronger culture, they would have been able to hunt and gather food over a larger area than the Neanderthals. This culture would have also led to better tool-making skills, which would allow them to make better weapons. For example, an ax would have been an incredibly useful tool and a devastating weapon.

According to their model, a small population of humans with a high level of culture could have overwhelmed a large population of Neanderthals who were less cultured.

5. The Division of Labor

The Neanderthals didn’t have the most complex diet. They were known to hunt big game animals, which was a dangerous task. They also hunted differently than humans. Neanderthal men, women, and juveniles would get involved with the hunt. Humans, on the other hand, developed tasks based on gender and age. This division of labor allowed them to collect a variety of different foods, and then they could process and cook it.

Being able to eat a variety of cooked food would have given humans an evolutionary edge in two ways. The first is that there would been more sources for food. Secondly, the more complex diet of cooked food not only allowed humans to survive, but it also helped in the evolution of the human brain and helped make it what it is today.

4. Neanderthals Had Smaller Frontal Lobes

One of the prevailing misconceptions surrounding the Neanderthals is that we were smarter than them. However, researchers believe their brains were just as big as humans’, but they were built differently. Neanderthal brains were designed to control their large bodies and to track movement. Humans had larger frontal lobes, which is the region of the brain where decision-making, social behavior, creativity, and abstract thought are controlled. In the long run, these qualities probably gave us an evolutionary edge compared the Neanderthals.

For example, by using abstract thought, humans realized that by processing food, like smashing up cooked yams, it would have saved energy during the eating process because you need less energy to chew your food. This is especially important when raising children. Secondly, the frontal lobe would have been helpful in spreading new technology quickly. With a larger frontal lobe it would have been easier for humans to teach each other, and to learn. Also, thanks to the large frontal lobe, early humans saw the benefit in forming large social groups, and these large groups would have made technology easier to spread across the species.

By saving energy on everyday tasks like eating, and utilizing technology, it would have given us an evolutionary edge that allowed us to survive while the Neanderthals went extinct.

3. The Weather Change Changed Their Habitat

An argument against the replacement theory is that humans had nothing to do with the extinction of the Neanderthals. After all, humans first left Africa about 100,000 years ago and moved into the Middle East, and then about 60,000 years ago they made it to Australia. However, humans only migrated into Europe, the Neanderthal’s homeland, 45,000 years ago. The question is, why did humans travel all the way down to Australia before getting to Europe, which is essentially around the corner from the Middle East? This suggests that humans may have only been able to move in when the Neanderthals were already dying off.

So why were they dying off? Well, drastic weather change could have been the culprit. When the Neanderthals went extinct, the last Ice Age was coming to an end and Eurasia was experiencing unstable weather patterns which dramatically changed the landscape. For example, in Italy around the time the Neanderthals went extinct, forests morphed into open plains over the span of 100 years. The Neanderthal body simply couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive in the new landscape.

The problem was that the Neanderthals hunted in the forest. They used the trees as cover and then they clubbed or stabbed prey. Their bodies simply weren’t built to sneak up on fast moving and dangerous game animals in the newly developed open plains.

Humans, on the other hand, were used to grasslands and open fields because that was the terrain in Africa where humans evolved and strived. With the Neanderthal population dwindling and the landscape becoming advantageous to humans’ skills, our ancestors simply moved into the area.

2. Disease Wiped Them Out

Why the Neanderthals lived for tens of thousands of years in Eurasia, but died out about 1,000 to 5,000 years after coming into contact with humans, is one of the most debated topics in anthropology. The obvious conclusion is that humans had something to do with the extinction, but no one is sure how or why humans caused it.

One theory is that when the Neanderthals moved out of Africa and settled in Eurasia, their immune system developed to deal with that environment. However, when humans migrated out of Africa, they brought African pathogens with them and these caused diseases like tuberculosis, herpes, tapeworms, and stomach ulcers. The Neanderthals’ immune systems simply couldn’t deal with the diseases and they went extinct. Yes, you read that right. Humans gave the Neanderthals herpes and it killed them.

Evidence to back this up is that this is what happened when Europeans came to the Americas starting in 1492. When they came, they brought diseases like smallpox and malaria, and this was devastating to people in the Americas. Since the Native Americans’ immune systems weren’t developed to combat the diseases, it’s estimated that 20 million Native Americans were killed in the years following contact with the Europeans, which was nearly 95 percent of the population in the Americas.

1. They Assimilated With Humans

One theory surrounding the fate of the Neanderthals is that there was no death blow. They simply assimilated with humans by interbreeding. For any of the reasons listed in the other entries on this list, or quite possibly because of a combination of them, the population of Neanderthals became drastically low. However, instead of all of them dying off, the species was just absorbed by the much bigger human population.

Evidence to back this up is that if you were born outside of Africa, 1.5 to 2.1 percent of your DNA is Neanderthal in origin. However, what’s interesting is that it isn’t the same genes in everyone. For example, if you have 2% Neanderthal DNA and your next door neighbor has 2% Neanderthal DNA, you may not share the same 2%. Researchers think that 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome is still found within humans. So they never exactly went extinct; instead, their DNA just became part of the modern human genome.

Caveman Digest –

WIF Ancient History

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 225

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 225

…“If you tack another 5 years on for a return trip, we may just be aliens on our own world, an irrelevant leftovers from the past…

“Somewhere, deep in their youthful existentiality, they must have a basal need, an outlet for all their buried emotion.”

“You are really into their minds aren’t you?” Sampson is actually jealous, but doesn’t show it. Their relationship is still sound, for a human marriage, but there is always that nagging fear of her losing her humanity, in favor of these alien attitudes. “You’re not thinking about ditching me, are you Celeste?”

“Now that is a silly notion Sam,” she barely recognizes an insecure Sammy Mac. “Where did that come from?”

“Well you are so close to these people and I really think they have accepted you as one of their own… and then there is old Sampson McKinney, that Neanderthal caveman from Earth, a  pain-in-the-ass, word speaking fool.

“Sometimes I think that if weren’t for you, they would banish me to that prison tower they are hiding, or better yet, hand the keys of the NEWFOUNDLANDER over to me and give me a map back to Earth.”

“There you go, that’s what you really want isn’t it?” The question is rhetorical.

“For a long time that is all I could think about. What has it been, 9 years since we’ve seen Earth?” It has actually been 15 (2045), but the slowing of his body clock has made time passage moot. “If you tack another 5 years on for a return trip, we may just be aliens on our own world, an irrelevant leftovers from the past. Not to mention that we will have missed the prime years of Deke & Gus’ lives… and Braden, How old is he now?

“Not to mention being debriefed by Crippen until we turn green. I bet he is the president of some private space-travel agency by now: Roy’s Rockets.

At times like this, Celeste will listen; merely listen for positive signs of sanity in her man.


Episode 225

page 204

Cavemen and Other Homo Sapiens – WIF Into Distant History

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10 Interesting Theories

About Cavemen

Homo sapiens first emerged 200,000 years ago in Africa and over the next 180,000 years, humans migrated to every continent on Earth, with the exception of Antarctica. After the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, civilization developed about 6,000 years ago in what is modern-day Iraq and Egypt. Not a whole lot is known about humans before civilization started, simply because writing hadn’t been invented, so what we do know is essentially a combination of speculation and educated guesses. These are 10 of the most interesting of these theories about what life was like for humans before the dawn of civilization.

10. The Relationship Between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals


Homo sapiens is a species of Hominina, and while there were others, we’re the only ones that have survived. However, other Hominina lived alongside us at one point in history. So exactly how friendly did our Homo sapiens ancestors get with other species of Hominina? Well, it turns out that they were quite friendly. Evidence seems to show that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis, or Neanderthals, who evolved about 400,000 years ago, interbred with each other.

Humans and Neanderthals share a common ancestor and they are our closest evolutionary ancestors. It is believed Neanderthals moved out of Africa about 300,000 years ago, about 100,000 years before humans evolved. They settled in the areas that are now Western Europe all the way to Siberia. Then, humans started migrating out of Africa and 45,000 humans migrated to Europe and for the first time, the two species of Hominina came across each other. It is believed by some researchers that it was during this time that humans and Neanderthals mated with each other. In fact, people who descended from Europeans, Asians, and other non-Africans have genomes that are two percent Neanderthal. It is believed that the genes helped with battling infections and dealing with ultraviolet rays. Researchers have also speculated that it is possible that Neanderthals passed along genes that helped humans deal with the cold. Evidence also seems to indicate that the genes that were passed along to human-Neanderthal hybrids were harmful and the hybrids didn’t survive past many generations.

9. Pets


What’s amazing is the similarities that we share with our ancestors that lived tens of thousands of years ago, and one way that we are really alike is that they kept dogs as pets. There is evidence that 33,000 years ago, humans had domesticated some dogs, but then an ice age happened about 26,000 years ago and none of the domesticated dogs survived. Instead, all pet dogs now have a common ancestor from about 17,000 to 14,000 years ago.

In Northern Jordan, there is a graveyard that is 16,500 years old with people buried alongside dogs. Amazingly, dogs weren’t the only pets of prehistoric humans. In one of the graves, they found a man buried with a fox; possibly meaning that humans and foxes were friends at one point.

8. Wolves and Humans Drove Neanderthals to Extinction?


One of the biggest mysteries of prehistoric times is why did the Neanderthals go extinct 40,000 years ago? One of the leading theories is that climate change altered their ecosystem and killed off the animals they would have eaten. Another theory is that humans were better suited at hunting than the Neanderthals. Evidence that it was competition simply comes down to the fact that about 45,000 years ago humans made their way to Europe, and 5,000 years later, all the Neanderthals were gone. A twist on the second theory from a leading American anthropologist was that wolves and humans drove them to extinction.

In Europe, at the time, there would have been three top competitors for animals – humans, Neanderthals, and wolves. As we talked about in the prior entry, prehistoric humans had domesticated dogs, and they were bred from wolves. According to the theory, the humans’ alliance with the wolves would have given humans a number of advantages. Dogs would have chased away rival carnivores, like lions and leopards, which would have stolen meat humans would have eaten. The dogs would have also been used for tracking and when they found the prey, they could have hounded it until it tired, making it easier for humans to kill the animal. This would have made hunting both easier and safer for humans, which would allowed our numbers to flourish and would have caused the Neanderthal population to dwindle and die off.

7. Penises


When you hear about a guy who tattoos or pierces his penis, you may cringe and think that you’ve really lost touch with the modern world. But in reality, the men who choose to do that may just be following in the footsteps of their ancient ancestors. It turns out that 12,000 years ago, in the areas that are known as France and Spain, they found phallic art that seems to show that men pierced, tattooed, and even scarredtheir manhood.

Researchers believe that it was probably for social or ritualistic reasons, but no one is exactly sure what the tattoos and scars mean. Many of them are geometric shapes, mostly triangles and circles, and the symbols match images in nearby cave paintings. So the markings could be significant to the tribe, or it could be decorative like many modern tattoos.

6. Wiped Out the Elephants?


At one point in Earth’s history, elephants and mammoths were relatively plentiful. There were at least 12 species and they were found in Eurasia, African and the Americas. Today, there are only two sub-species of elephants left and they are only found in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. There are two theories as to what killed the elephants and mammoths. The first is the climate change that happened about 10,000 years ago. The second theory is that humans drove them to extinction. To test the theory, two researchers looked at 41 archaeological sites on the five continents where elephants and mammoths lived. They found that once humans moved into an area, elephants and mammoth started to disappear from fossil records, meaning it is quite possible that anywhere humans went, they decimated the populations of elephants and mammoths.

5. Diets


One of the biggest fad diets of the past few years is the Paleo diet. The idea of the diet is to eat like our prehistoric ancestors. This includes eating lean meats and seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. It is also best to avoid dairy, grains, processed foods and sugar, legumes, starches, and alcohol.

So, did our ancient ancestors really eat that way? Well, sort of. The modern Paleo diet is an oversimplified version of what humans in the Paleolithic era ate. First off, different people living in different areas would have eaten different meat due to what was available. For example, humans that settled in the desert wouldn’t have access to fish and people living in cold climates wouldn’t be able to grow fresh fruit and vegetables. In lieu of fruits and vegetables, they would have eaten different parts of animals to get the important nutrients they needed to survive.

Also, the Paleo diet suggests that you don’t drink alcohol. Well, there is evidence that 9,000 years ago, in what is modern day China, prehistoric people made alcohol fromfermented fruit. The mead had about a 10 percent alcohol level. Other than that, it is believed that in what’s known today as Turkey, archaeologists found evidence of a beer brewing station that was used over 11,000 years ago. While it would have beenmuch different than the beer we drink today, we are betting that it still tastes better than Milwaukee’s Best.

4. Cannibalism?


Whether prehistoric people were cannibals or not is a highly debated topic amongst experts on prehistoric people. There are certainly reasons why they would eat other people. It would keep enemies in line and it was a food source. Plus, they didn’t know about the harmful effects of cannibalism. Also, not eating other people is ingrained in current society as a social taboo, but was prehistoric man’s social laws as strong as our own?

Well, there is some physical evidence that suggests our great ancestors may have eaten some of our other great ancestors. In Gough Cave, England, researchers found human bones from about 12,000 years ago and they had gnaw marks on them that are very similar to the marks modern humans leave when they chew on bones. So while it may sound disgusting, we want to point out that these British prehistoric people were lucky if they dined on human flesh because it is probably better than some British food that came after it.

3. Amazing Artists


One of the most interesting artifacts left behind by prehistoric people are cave paintings. There are cave paintings found on every continent except Antarctica, and some of them are believed to be nearly 40,000 years old. In many of the paintings, there are depictions of animals and people hunting them. What’s interesting is that on average, the cave painters were better at depicting the anatomy of animals than artists in the 19th and 20th centuries. When four legged animals run, they have a specific way they move their legs called the “foot-fall formula.” When they run, the pattern is left hind leg, left foreleg, right foreleg, and right hind leg. This formula wasn’t discovered until 1880. Yet, pre-historic humans seemed to know this because out of 39 cave paintings that were examined, 53.2 percent of them had the animals walking correctly. Compare those numbers to 272 paintings and statues made before 1880, where the artists only got it right 16.5 percent of the time. When examining 686 pictures and statues created after 1887, the artists still only got it right 42.1 percent of the time.

2. Women Were Cave Painters


As we just mentioned, the cave painters had some amazing knowledge about animals and it was translated well into their drawings. Besides drawing anatomy correctly, they also used scale and color well. Many people who don’t have artistic training would struggle to draw something as well as prehistoric cave painters. This has led researchers to speculate that an individual probably worked full time as a painter. But, having someone paint full time would have been an odd choice for a group of hunters. Ideally, they would want every able bodied male out for the hunt, for two reasons. First, making a kill was important because it meant the difference between eating and starving, and secondly, hunting was a dangerous activity and there is safety in numbers. This has led anthropologists to believe that cave painters were womenbecause a woman could focus a lot of her time on painting and it wouldn’t take any members away from the hunting group. Evidence to back this up is early hand stencils found in caves. Prehistoric people would place their hands on the wall or the ceiling and then blow or spray a pigment onto it, leaving a stencil, and many of the handprints seem to be more consistent with women’s hands.

Researchers have speculated that paintings seemed to be important to prehistoric people because it is believed that the paintings were either to record notable hunts or was a form of “hunting magic.” This means that they painted the images with the hopes that it would aid them in real life hunts.

1. The Toba Catastrophe


In our known universe, we are the dominant species. At this moment in time, we have over 7.4 billion people living on Earth and that number is growing every single day. Amazingly, it almost didn’t turn out that way because over 70,000 years ago human beings were nearly wiped out.

At that time, humans were all still living in Africa. Across the Indian ocean in Indonesia,Toba, a supervolcano, erupted. It was the biggest known volcanic explosion in history by quite a large margin, and it spewed 650 miles of vaporized rock into the air. The amount of dust that entered the atmosphere dimmed the sunlight that reached the Earth for six years and this had drastic effects on the environment. Ash was scattered everywhere, rains were disrupted, which effected the water streams that people and wildlife would have drank from. All of this would have decreased the amount of fruit, trees, and the amount of animals humans would have hunted. Many humans at this point would have starved to death. The situation got so dire that there were only about 1,000 breeding pairs of humans, which means there was maybe 5,000 to 10,000 total humans on the planet. But, of course, we luckily bounced back, and as of right now, a lack of population is definitely one of the least of our worries.

Cavemen and Other Homo Sapiens

WIF History-001

– WIF Into Distant History

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