Remains Show Human Killed Neanderthal
By JEANNA BRYNER
(July 22, 2009) -- Newly analyzed remains suggest that a modern human killed a Neanderthal man in what is now Iraq between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago. The finding is scant but tantalizing evidence for a theory that modern humans helped to kill off the Neanderthals.
The probable weapon of choice: A thrown spear.
The evidence: A lethal wound on the remains of a Neanderthal skeleton.
The victim: A 40- to 50-year-old male, now called Shanidar 3, with signs of arthritis and a sharp, deep slice in his left ninth rib.
"What we've got is a rib injury, with any number of scenarios that could explain it," said study researcher Steven Churchill, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University in North Carolina. "We're not suggesting there was a blitzkrieg, with modern humans marching across the land and executing the Neandertals [aka Neanderthals]. I want to say that loud and clear."
But he added, "We think the best explanation for this injury is a projectile weapon, and given who had those and who didn't, that implies at least one act of inter-species aggression."
(The words "Neanderthal" and "Neandertal" refer to the same species, Homo neanderthalensis, which lived on the plains of Europe and parts of Asia as far back as 230,000 years ago. They disappeared from the fossil record more than 20,000 years ago.)
Scientists are continuing to refine their understanding of early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, with hopes of also resolving the mystery of how the latter species went extinct while we did not. Past research has yielded conflicting evidence on interbreeding between the two species, but the new study clearly shows the opposite of affection.
In fact, another Neanderthal skeleton dating back some 36,000 years and found in France showed signs of a scalp injury likely caused by a sharp object that may have been delivered by a modern human at the time, Churchill said.
"So if the Shanidar 3 case is also a case of inter-specific violence and if Shanidar 3 overlaps in time with modern humans, we're beginning to get a little bit of a pattern here," Churchill said...