Neanderthals and Humans Were at War… For 100,000 Years!

Neanderthals and Humans Were at War… For 100,000 Years!



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Once much of Eurasia was dominated by Neanderthals, our archaic human ancestors. And the extinction of Neanderthals is one of the great mysteries in science. An evolutionary biologist and paleontologist now believe that the extinction of Neanderthals was the result of losing a 100,000-year war with anatomically modern humans. It seems that the expansion of our ancient human ancestors across Eurasia was a result of conquest.

The Neanderthals and the ancestors of the modern humans separated in Africa over 500,000 years ago. Homo neanderthalensis migrated into the Middle East and spread over much of Europe and Asia. According to BBC Future they “They weren't our ancestors, but a sister species, evolving in parallel.” The Neanderthals were not primitive cavemen and women: they were comparatively quite advanced. They were capable hunters who lived in complex social systems. Neanderthals had a culture, and even buried their dead, which may indicate they even had some form of religion.

Neanderthals Were Predators and Territorial Like Us

Anatomically modern humans left Africa about 200,000 years ago. We know that they encountered Neanderthals because there is some evidence of interbreeding between the two hominins. This may indicate that the two species lived in harmony and even cooperated.

Nicholas R Longrich, who teaches evolutionary biology and paleontology at the University of Bath, Britain wrote in Science Alert that “It's tempting to see them in idyllic terms, living peacefully with nature and each other, like Adam and Eve in the Garden.” Many philosophers believed that war and violence are modern phenomena that were biproducts of civilization.

Prehistoric Neanderthals or Homo Sapiens? It's difficult to say as we were so similar. (Gorodenkoff / Adobe Stock )

But as Longrich writes in Science Alert “Biology and paleontology paint a darker picture.” Neanderthals were predators and they were hard-wired to be territorial. They would defend their territory with violence, and they would work in a cooperative way to fight off all trespassers. This means that the extinction of Neanderthals could not have been easy.

Territorial Behavior

Defending one’s territory and using violence to do so, if necessary, was a trait that Neanderthals, modern humans and chimpanzees all inherited from their ancestors. As a result, modern humans and our sister species, the Neanderthals, were programmed to be violent when protecting their territory.

Longrich told BBC Future that “ cooperative aggression evolved in the common ancestor of chimps and ourselves 7 million years ago.” This impulse is the root of all organized violence and war. The expert also stated in Science Alert that “War isn't a modern invention, but an ancient, fundamental part of our humanity.” Evidence for this is everywhere in the archaeological record and in our earliest myths.

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Neanderthals were remarkably similar to modern humans. They behaved as we do, and Longrich said in Science Alert that “If Neanderthals shared so many of our creative instincts, they probably shared many of our destructive instincts, too.” So, when the ancestors of modern humans left Africa and encountered other species of archaic humans, conflict and war was inevitable.

The Stone Age archaeological record has provided us with some examples of prehistoric stone tools or weapons of violence. Probably, these tools were used for daily life and territorial defense. (Jiffy Photography / Adobe Stock )

A look at the paleontological record shows that there is evidence of trauma on the bones of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. The primitive weapons found by archaeologists at prehistoric sites also tell a tale of violence, as the bone record does. In particular, it seems that young Neanderthal males showed signs of injuries from blunt force trauma. These would have been the fighters of their groups and this may indicate that they were injured or killed in violent confrontations. While some deaths may have been accidental, some may have been the result of raids and ambushes.

The Extinction of Neanderthals Took 100,000 Years!

There is a real possibility that Neanderthals and early humans were engaged in violence similar to the inter-tribal conflicts of the past and even present. The Neanderthals resisted the incursions of modern humans into their territories. Longrich told the Daily Express that this “led to a 100,000-year war to determine who was top dog.” So, the extinction of Neanderthals was not fast: it took humans a long time to achieve.

The Neanderthals were formidable foes. This was because they survived for tens of thousands of years after encountering modern humans. They were capable hunters, and they had the skills and weapons to resist newcomers. Moreover, they were stockier and stronger than our ancestors, and probably had better night vision, which could have helped them in ambushes after dark. This means that the extinction of Neanderthals was not necessarily an obvious outcome. We won but not so fast . .

A prehistoric cave painting showing a battle between two groups, who may have been Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. As we know, the Homo Sapiens were the ones who won the war. (lolloj / Adobe Stock )

So How Did Humans Eventually Win This Long War?

The war between the two human species ebbed and flowed for many thousands of years. Likely there was a stalemate between the two species for countless millennia and it was a war of attrition. BBC Future reports that “In Israel and Greece, archaic Homo sapiens took ground only to fall back against Neanderthal counteroffensives.” It took our ancestors some 75,000 years to achieve the extinction of Neanderthals from what is now Israel and Greece.

No one is sure why early modern humans were ultimately able to prevail against their sister species. The Daily Express quotes Longrich as stating that “It’s possible the invention of superior ranged weapons – bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs – let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics.” Over time, we evolved and acquired advantages that, eventually, resulted in the extinction of Neanderthals.

However, it is also possible that our ancestors used better hunting techniques and had other strategic advantages. Our early hunting groups may have been bigger than those of the Neanderthals. And with more fighters, humans may have had an advantage.

The theory that our ancestors eventually overcame the Neanderthals through violence, seems to support the view that they disappeared because they were exterminated by H. sapiens . However, there are also other theories to explain the extinction of Neanderthals, including disease, failure to adapt to changing environments and even a lack of genetic diversity.

Top image: Neanderthal warrior Source: Gorodenkoff / Adobe Stock

By Ed Whelan


Neanderthals and Humans Were at War… For 100,000 Years!

Once much of Eurasia was dominated by Neanderthals, our archaic human ancestors. And the extinction of Neanderthals is one of the great mysteries in science. An evolutionary biologist and paleontologist now believe that the extinction of Neanderthals was the result of losing a 100,000-year war with anatomically modern humans. It seems that the expansion of our ancient human ancestors across Eurasia was a result of conquest.

The Neanderthals and the ancestors of the modern humans separated in Africa over 500,000 years ago. Homo neanderthalensis migrated into the Middle East and spread over much of Europe and Asia. According to BBC Future they “They weren’t our ancestors, but a sister species, evolving in parallel.” The Neanderthals were not primitive cavemen and women: they were comparatively quite advanced. They were capable hunters who lived in complex social systems. Neanderthals had a culture, and even buried their dead, which may indicate they even had some form of religion.


Neanderthals and humans 'were at war for 100,000 years'

Scientists have long puzzled over why Neanderthals (closely related to Homo sapiens) went extinct around 40,000 years ago.

But a researcher has suggested that the two species may have been locked in a series of skirmishes for 100,000 years.

Neanderthals disappeared around 40,000 years ago, around the same time modern humans started migrating to the Near East and Europe.

In fact, the battle between the two closely related hominins might explain why humanity took so long to leave Africa, according to researcher Dr Nicholas R Longrich.

Dr Longrich, of the University of Bath, believes that Neanderthals may have lived in Eurasia, while humans fought against them from Africa.

Battles between the two may have led to humans remaining on the continent, Dr Longrich believes.

Dr Longrich said that remains of both humans and Neanderthals show the telltale signs of battle, in an essay for The Conversation.

He added: “Clubs are fast, powerful, precise weapons – so prehistoric Homo sapiens frequently show trauma to the skull. So too do Neanderthals.”

He added that the injuries hint of species locked in long-running battles.

“Another sign of warfare is the parry fracture, a break to the lower arm caused by warding off blows,” said Dr Longrich.

“Neanderthals also show a lot of broken arms. At least one Neanderthal, from Shanidar Cave in Iraq, was impaled by a spear to the chest.

“Trauma was especially common in young Neanderthal males, as were deaths.”

Dr Longrich also believes that for tens of millennia, a stalemate reigned between the Neanderthals in Eurasia, until finally Homo sapiens gained an advantage.

“Finally, the stalemate broke, and the tide shifted. We don’t know why. It’s possible the invention of superior ranged weapons – bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs – let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics,” he wrote.

“Or perhaps better hunting and gathering techniques let sapiens feed bigger tribes, creating numerical superiority in battle.”

Other researchers have suggested that the trump of Homo sapiens was down to an ability to master language, or to form social groups.

Research in 2018 suggested that the triumph of Homo sapiens was due to ability to adapt to all forms of weather, from hot deserts to icy mountains.

Homo sapiens were ‘jack of all trades’, or ‘generalist specialists’, who rapidly adapted to new environments, according to the researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute.

This meant that homo sapiens could adapt to - and thrive in - all environments, giving them a key advantage over other hominins.


Neanderthals and humans 'were at war for 100,000 years'

Scientists have long puzzled over why Neanderthals (closely related to Homo sapiens) went extinct around 40,000 years ago.

But a researcher has suggested that the two species may have been locked in a series of skirmishes for 100,000 years.

Neanderthals disappeared around 40,000 years ago, around the same time modern humans started migrating to the Near East and Europe.

In fact, the battle between the two closely related hominins might explain why humanity took so long to leave Africa, according to researcher Dr Nicholas R Longrich.

Dr Longrich, of the University of Bath, believes that Neanderthals may have lived in Eurasia, while humans fought against them from Africa.

Battles between the two may have led to humans remaining on the continent, Dr Longrich believes.

Dr Longrich said that remains of both humans and Neanderthals show the telltale signs of battle, in an essay for The Conversation.

He added: “Clubs are fast, powerful, precise weapons – so prehistoric Homo sapiens frequently show trauma to the skull. So too do Neanderthals.”

He added that the injuries hint of species locked in long-running battles.

“Another sign of warfare is the parry fracture, a break to the lower arm caused by warding off blows,” said Dr Longrich.

“Neanderthals also show a lot of broken arms. At least one Neanderthal, from Shanidar Cave in Iraq, was impaled by a spear to the chest.

“Trauma was especially common in young Neanderthal males, as were deaths.”

Dr Longrich also believes that for tens of millennia, a stalemate reigned between the Neanderthals in Eurasia, until finally Homo sapiens gained an advantage.

“Finally, the stalemate broke, and the tide shifted. We don’t know why. It’s possible the invention of superior ranged weapons – bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs – let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics,” he wrote.

“Or perhaps better hunting and gathering techniques let sapiens feed bigger tribes, creating numerical superiority in battle.”

Other researchers have suggested that the trump of Homo sapiens was down to an ability to master language, or to form social groups.

Research in 2018 suggested that the triumph of Homo sapiens was due to ability to adapt to all forms of weather, from hot deserts to icy mountains.

Homo sapiens were ‘jack of all trades’, or ‘generalist specialists’, who rapidly adapted to new environments, according to the researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute.

This meant that homo sapiens could adapt to - and thrive in - all environments, giving them a key advantage over other hominins.


New Evidence Suggests Homo Sapiens Were at Constant War with Neanderthals for Over 100,000 Years

Humans are born territorial like all the land-based mammals. We have continued to show the traits in the form of modern-day borders and Neanderthals weren't any different from us (Homo Sapiens). The two co-existed for thousands of years but it wasn't peaceful. According to new evidence, humans were at constant war with Neanderthals until the species was wiped out.

Both Homo Spaniels (modern-day humans) and Neanderthals were sister species, evolving from a common ancestor chimpanzee before dividing into two groups. One that moved out of Africa to other continents became the Homo neanderthalensis or Neanderthals and the other group that stayed in Africa evolved into Homo Sapiens or humans about 600,000 years ago. In total, there were nine human species.

Homo neanderthalensis (Europe)

Homo rhodesiensis (Central Africa)

Homo luzonensis (The Philippines)

Homo floresiensis (Indonesia)

Red Deer Cave People (China)

Homo Sapiens (Modern-day humans)

Striking Similarities

Despite choosing different paths, the two species were strikingly similar. Both were hunter-gatherers, had similar anatomy and had 99.7 percent similarities in the DNA. Humans and Neanderthals also shared behavioral similarities. Both could make fire, buried dead bodies and were fascinated by artworks.

Homo Sapiens (left) and Neanderthals were at constant war over hunting ground Wikimedia Commons

However, despite the similarities, unlike other humans, Neanderthals were the apex predator who ventured into a new world while the Homo Sapiens was the new kid on the block with more intelligence. But all of them had similar problems. With both being hunter-gatherers, territorial disputes grew larger over hunting grounds and so did confrontations.

About 10,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens drove all other species to extinction, emerging as the apex predator. Scientists sometimes refer to that as the sixth mass extinction that was man-made.

New Evidence

As both species used similar weapons — spears, clubs — to hunt, they had used those in the war against each other. Scientists have found evidence that it was common during those days. Prehistoric warfare left signs in fossils in the form of broken bones, fractures or trauma signs. Clubs were the preferred weapon in war as it could dismantle the enemy in seconds. Fossils of both species showed trauma to the skull, Nicholas R Longrich, a senior lecturer of evolutionary biology and paleontology at the University of Bath, the U.K, wrote in The Conversation.

One Neanderthal fossil was found in Shanidar Cave in Iraq with a pierced spear to the chest. Researchers also observed frequent fractures to the lower arm that could have caused when trading blows. While some injury marks could have been from hunting, researchers believe that the pattern of injuries was consistent with intertribal, small-scale warfare.

Many fossils of Neanderthal skulls had signs of trauma Smithsonian Institute

However, unlike other human species, Neanderthals were the main challenger to Homo Sapiens' domination. They were stocky hunters and weren't overrun by us. The battle for existence lasted about 100,000 years before ultimately Homo Sapiens overcame.

Advantage Neanderthals

Longrich pointed out that the reason for humans to leave Africa so late was due to Neanderthals' domination in Europe and Asia. He added that humans kept losing to Neanderthals for thousands of years due to the latter's tactical abilities and physical advantages. Unlike Homo Sapiens, they were muscular-built and had a great advantage in close-quarters fights. Besides, they had bigger eyes and better low-light vision. That helped them beat Homo Sapiens ambush in the dark.

By leaving Africa early, they had also adapted to the weather and local climate of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. They had gained knowledge of the territory, local plants and animals, unlike Homo Sapiens.

Homo Sapiens, New Apex Predator

However, after years of being dominated by Neanderthals, Homo Sapiens finally managed to become the apex predator that still rules the planet today. The exact reason is unknown but scientists have different arguments about the reason that includes climate change, better adaptability, poor Neanderthal genes that were susceptible to diseases among others.

But according to Longrich, we might have won because of inventing superior weapons including long-range ones that would have aided us in hitting Neanderthals from a distance before they could approach us. The other reason could be a better technique in hunting-gathering that helped us stay healthy and gave us a numerical advantage in the war against our sister species.


The Neanderthal resistance

War leaves a subtler mark in the form of territorial boundaries. The best evidence that Neanderthals not only fought but excelled at war, is that they met us and weren’t immediately overrun. Instead, for around 100,000 years, Neanderthals resisted modern human expansion.

The out-of-Africa offensive. (Nicholas R. Longrich)

Why else would we take so long to leave Africa? Not because the environment was hostile but because Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe and Asia.

It’s exceedingly unlikely that modern humans met the Neanderthals and decided to just live and let live. If nothing else, population growth inevitably forces humans to acquire more land, to ensure sufficient territory to hunt and forage food for their children.

But an aggressive military strategy is also good evolutionary strategy.

Instead, for thousands of years, we must have tested their fighters, and for thousands of years, we kept losing. In weapons, tactics, strategy, we were fairly evenly matched.

Neanderthals probably had tactical and strategic advantages. They’d occupied the Middle East for millennia, doubtless gaining intimate knowledge of the terrain, the seasons, how to live off the native plants and animals.

In battle, their massive, muscular builds must have made them devastating fighters in close-quarters combat. Their huge eyes likely gave Neanderthals superior low-light vision, letting them manoeuvre in the dark for ambushes and dawn raids.


The Neanderthal resistance

War leaves a subtler mark in the form of territorial boundaries. The best evidence that Neanderthals not only fought but excelled at war, is that they met us and weren’t immediately overrun.

Instead, for around 100,000 years, Neanderthals resisted modern human expansion.

Why else would we take so long to leave Africa? Not because the environment was hostile but because Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe and Asia.

It’s exceedingly unlikely that modern humans met the Neanderthals and decided to just live and let live.

If nothing else, population growth inevitably forces humans to acquire more land, to ensure sufficient territory to hunt and forage food for their children. But an aggressive military strategy is also good evolutionary strategy.

Instead, for thousands of years, we must have tested their fighters, and for thousands of years, we kept losing. In weapons, tactics, strategy, we were fairly evenly matched.

Neanderthals probably had tactical and strategic advantages.

They’d occupied the Middle East for millennia, doubtless gaining intimate knowledge of the terrain, the seasons, how to live off the native plants and animals.

In battle, their massive, muscular builds must have made them devastating fighters in close-quarters combat.

Their huge eyes likely gave Neanderthals superior low-light vision, letting them manoeuvre in the dark for ambushes and dawn raids.


Archaeology news: Humans and neanderthals were engaged in 100,000 year battle

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Neanderthals: Expert discusses why species went extinct

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Homo neanderthalensis, or neanderthals, and Homo sapiens, which are us, both sprung from the same evolutionary branch. Around 600,000 years ago, humanity split in two. The people were refer to as cavemen headed up to Europe and Asia while Homo sapiens stayed put in Africa.

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However, it was this split which ultimately led to war for top spot between the two species.

Both Homo sapiens and neanderthals were extremely adept at hunting, fighting and organising - three traits key to warfare.

While neanderthals boomed out across the world, humans were forced to stay in Africa.

However, it was because of the immense breeding power of humans that we eventually had to move out of Africa in search for new habitats and food.

Archaeology news: Humans and neanderthals were engaged in 100,000 year battle (Image: GETTY)

Archaeology news: This map shows the spread of Homo sapiens (Image: GETTY)

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Unfortunately for humans, neanderthals had already made their mark on the planet and occupied the placed humans wanted to make their own.

This led to a battle for dominance between the two species which your ancestors won.

Humans and neanderthals share very similar anatomy and they also had 99.7 percent the same DNA.

As you can imagine, this means they were virtually the same as us which included being extremely territorial and to take whatever is there for the taking.

Archaeology news: The difference between homo sapiens and neanderthal skulls (Image: GETTY)

According to Nicholas Longrich, senior lecturer in evolutionary biology and palaeontology at the University of Bath, said it was their resistance and humans need to conquer which led to a 100,000 year war to determine who was top dog. Ultimately, humanity won out.

Mr Longrich said: "War leaves a subtler mark in the form of territorial boundaries. The best evidence that Neanderthals not only fought but excelled at war, is that they met us and weren&rsquot immediately overrun.

"Instead, for around 100,000 years, Neanderthals resisted modern human expansion.

"Why else would we take so long to leave Africa? Not because the environment was hostile but because Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe and Asia.

Archaeology news: The chart details the evolution of humans (Image: GETTY)

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"It&rsquos exceedingly unlikely that modern humans met the Neanderthals and decided to just live and let live.

"If nothing else, population growth inevitably forces humans to acquire more land, to ensure sufficient territory to hunt and forage food for their children.

"Instead, for thousands of years, we must have tested their fighters, and for thousands of years, we kept losing. In weapons, tactics, strategy, we were fairly evenly matched.

"Finally, the stalemate broke, and the tide shifted. We don&rsquot know why. It&rsquos possible the invention of superior ranged weapons &ndash bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs &ndash let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics.

"Or perhaps better hunting and gathering techniques let sapiens feed bigger tribes, creating numerical superiority in battle.

Archaeology news: Most groundbreaking archaeological findings (Image: EXPRESS)

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"Even after primitive Homo sapiens broke out of Africa 200,000 years ago, it took over 150,000 years to conquer Neanderthal lands.

"In Israel and Greece, archaic Homo sapiens took ground only to fall back against Neanderthal counteroffensives, before a final offensive by modern Homo sapiens, starting 125,000 years ago, eliminated them.

"This wasn&rsquot a blitzkrieg, as one would expect if Neanderthals were either pacifists or inferior warriors, but a long war of attrition.

"Ultimately, we won. But this wasn&rsquot because they were less inclined to fight. In the end, we likely just became better at war than they were."


Neanderthals and humans 'were at war for 100,000 years'

Scientists have long puzzled over why Neanderthals (closely related to Homo sapiens) went extinct around 40,000 years ago.

But a researcher has suggested that the two species may have been locked in a series of skirmishes for 100,000 years.

Neanderthals disappeared around 40,000 years ago, around the same time modern humans started migrating to the Near East and Europe.

In fact, the battle between the two closely related hominins might explain why humanity took so long to leave Africa, according to researcher Dr Nicholas R Longrich.

Dr Longrich, of the University of Bath, believes that Neanderthals may have lived in Eurasia, while humans fought against them from Africa.

Battles between the two may have led to humans remaining on the continent, Dr Longrich believes.

Dr Longrich said that remains of both humans and Neanderthals show the telltale signs of battle, in an essay for The Conversation.

He added: “Clubs are fast, powerful, precise weapons – so prehistoric Homo sapiens frequently show trauma to the skull. So too do Neanderthals.”

He added that the injuries hint of species locked in long-running battles.

“Another sign of warfare is the parry fracture, a break to the lower arm caused by warding off blows,” said Dr Longrich.

“Neanderthals also show a lot of broken arms. At least one Neanderthal, from Shanidar Cave in Iraq, was impaled by a spear to the chest.

“Trauma was especially common in young Neanderthal males, as were deaths.”

Dr Longrich also believes that for tens of millennia, a stalemate reigned between the Neanderthals in Eurasia, until finally Homo sapiens gained an advantage.

“Finally, the stalemate broke, and the tide shifted. We don’t know why. It’s possible the invention of superior ranged weapons – bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs – let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics,” he wrote.

“Or perhaps better hunting and gathering techniques let sapiens feed bigger tribes, creating numerical superiority in battle.”

Other researchers have suggested that the trump of Homo sapiens was down to an ability to master language, or to form social groups.

Research in 2018 suggested that the triumph of Homo sapiens was due to ability to adapt to all forms of weather, from hot deserts to icy mountains.

Homo sapiens were ‘jack of all trades’, or ‘generalist specialists’, who rapidly adapted to new environments, according to the researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute.

This meant that homo sapiens could adapt to - and thrive in - all environments, giving them a key advantage over other hominins.

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Coronavirus testing in schools should be scrapped, experts say

In an open letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson they criticised the approach, branding it “deeply concerning” that daily testing trials are “being presented as a solution for educational disruption”. Currently around 200 schools and colleges across England are participating in a trial, with one group following the national guidance of quarantining contacts of positive cases, and the other allowing daily testing of contacts for a week instead of isolation. As part of the trial rapid lateral flow tests are to be used each day, with participants also offered a PCR test - which involves sending results to a lab - on day two and seven.


Violent lives

The archaeological record confirms Neanderthal lives were anything but peaceful.

Neanderthalensis were skilled big game hunters, using spears to take down deer, ibex, elk, bison, even rhinos and mammoths. It defies belief to think they would have hesitated to use these weapons if their families and lands were threatened. Archaeology suggests such conflicts were commonplace.

Prehistoric warfare leaves telltale signs. A club to the head is an efficient way to kill – clubs are fast, powerful, precise weapons – so prehistoric Homo sapiens frequently show trauma to the skull. So too do Neanderthals.

The Saint-Césaire Neanderthal skull suffered a blow that split the skull. 36,000 years ago, France. Smithsonian Institution

Another sign of warfare is the parry fracture, a break to the lower arm caused by warding off blows. Neanderthals also show a lot of broken arms. At least one Neanderthal, from Shanidar Cave in Iraq, was impaled by a spear to the chest. Trauma was especially common in young Neanderthal males, as were deaths. Some injuries could have been sustained in hunting, but the patterns match those predicted for a people engaged in intertribal warfare- small-scale but intense, prolonged conflict, wars dominated by guerrilla-style raids and ambushes, with rarer battles.


Sapiens victorious

Finally, the stalemate broke, and the tide shifted. We don’t know why.

It’s possible the invention of superior ranged weapons – bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs – let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics.

Or perhaps better hunting and gathering techniques let sapiens feed bigger tribes, creating numerical superiority in battle.

Even after primitive Homo sapiens broke out of Africa 200,000 years ago, it took over 150,000 years to conquer Neanderthal lands.

In Israel and Greece, archaic Homo sapiens took ground only to fall back against Neanderthal counteroffensives, before a final offensive by modern Homo sapiens, starting 125,000 years ago, eliminated them.

This wasn’t a blitzkrieg, as one would expect if Neanderthals were either pacifists or inferior warriors, but a long war of attrition.

Ultimately, we won. But this wasn’t because they were less inclined to fight. In the end, we likely just became better at war than they were.

The original article was published on The Conversation and can be read here.

A close relative of modern humans, Neanderthals went extinct 40,000 years ago

The Neanderthals were a close human ancestor that mysteriously died out around 40,000 years ago.

The species lived in Africa with early humans for millennia before moving across to Europe around 300,000 years ago.

They were later joined by humans, who entered Eurasia around 48,000 years ago.

The Neanderthals were a cousin species of humans but not a direct ancestor – the two species split from a common ancestor – that perished around 50,000 years ago. Pictured is a Neanderthal museum exhibit

These were the original ‘cavemen’, historically thought to be dim-witted and brutish compared to modern humans.

In recent years though, and especially over the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent we’ve been selling Neanderthals short.

A growing body of evidence points to a more sophisticated and multi-talented kind of ‘caveman’ than anyone thought possible.

It now seems likely that Neanderthals had told, buried their dead, painted and even interbred with humans.

They used body art such as pigments and beads, and they were the very first artists, with Neanderthal cave art (and symbolism) in Spain apparently predating the earliest modern human art by some 20,000 years.

They are thought to have hunted on land and done some fishing. However, they went extinct around 40,000 years ago following the success of Homo sapiens in Europe.


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