The disappearance of Neanderthals from the Palaeolithic record in Europe remains an enigma, even after more than 150 years of research. This paper identifies Rapid Climate Change during the Glacial period as a major factor that influences a variety of cultural, economic and demographic processes during the European Palaeolithic. In particular, and in agreement with many previous authors, climatic deterioration is put forward to explain multiple population breakdown during the European Palaeolithic, as well as to explain corresponding major cultural changes. Taking the archaeological record of the Iberian Peninsula as a case study, the Repeated Replacement Model (RRM) is proposed to explain population turnover in Europe during the most extreme climatic phases of the Glacial, the occurrence of North Atlantic Heinrich Events (HE). The strong aridity of the Mediterranean during HEs appears to have limited settlement refugia to such an extreme extent that communication networks and cultural traditions broke down and were subsequently reorganized under different socio-cultural conditions. The transition from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Aurignacian during HE 4 is one of these cultural turnover periods, which saw the final (macro-scale) extinction of Neanderthals and their widespread replacement by Anatomically Modern Humans. More specifically, and recognizable by comparisons with other climatically extreme Glacial periods (i.e. HE 3, and HE 2), the model excludes the survival of geographically wider (supra-regional) human networks, but it does allow for (micro-scale) survival of scattered groups. From this model, some kind of admixture between Neanderthals and incoming groups of modern humans would indeed have been possible on a small scale. If this climatic scenario turns out to be correct, the most spectacular thing about Neanderthal disappearance might actually lie in the seemingly unspectacular nature of the processes involved.
M. Bradtmöller, A. B. G. (2012): The Repeated Replacement Model – Rapid Climate Change and Population Dynamics in Upper Pleistocene Europe.. – In: Quaternary International, Vol. 247, p: 38-49, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2010.10.015
|Authors||M. Bradtmöller,A. Pastoors, B. Weninger, G.-C. Weniger|
|Title||The Repeated Replacement Model – Rapid Climate Change and Population Dynamics in Upper Pleistocene Europe.|