Why Humans Prevailed Over Neanderthals

Why Humans Prevailed Over Neanderthals

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One hundred thousand years ago, several humanlike species walked the Earth. There were tribes of stocky Neanderthals eking out an existence in Europe and northwest Asia, and bands of cave-dwelling Denisovans in Asia. A diminutive, hobbitlike people called Homo floresiensis inhabited Indonesia. What were essentially modern humans roamed Africa.

Then, about 60,000 years ago, a few thousand of those humans migrated out of Africa. As they slowly moved into new territories over the course of generations, they encountered the Neanderthals, the Denisovans and the hobbit people — all of whom descended from hominin groups that had left Africa during prior waves of migration. DNA analysis shows the humans interbred with these strangers, but other details of the encounters are lost to history. One thing is clear: only humans remain. Why did we prevail? A panel of experts discussed their latest interpretations of genetic and fossil evidence at the fifth annual World Science Festival in New York. Humanity’s success, they said, appears to be a “revenge of the nerds” story of global proportions.

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