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Why not the Neandertals?

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Some workers have suggested that a hypothetical genetic mutation in an African population less than 100,000 years ago led to a cascade of neurological changes in the human brain that culminated in the appearance of modern language. Language then triggered the socioeconomic and cognitive changes we associate with behavioral modernity and Africans, armed with behavioral modernity, then spread out from that continent, out-competing, displacing, extirpating, outbreeding or, most generally, replacing the Neandertals and other archaic humans throughout the middle latitudes of the Old World. The Neandertals of Europe are the best-known, best-represented and longest studied test case for this theory. In this paper we present evidence from skeletal anatomy, mitochondrial DNA, morphology and genetics of speech and the archaeology of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition in Europe that directly contradicts all of the elements in this replacement scenario. The processes leading to modernity involved the entire human species, and were based on the ethnogenic principle of communication and reticulation among populations.
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Keywords: Modern human origins; Neandertals; cognitive evolution; language

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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