Why did the Neanderthal variety of human die out? Its a mystery that will be discussed this week at a conference in London at which the results of a 5 year research programme will also be revealed. One major finding will be that modern humans arrived much earlier in Europe than previously thought (around 45000 years ago) and that Neanderthals died out earlier than thought too, within a few thousand years of the arrival of modern humans.
New techniques are said to be able to radiocarbon date fairly recent finds much more accurately. Thanks to these new techniques it is now thought that Neanderthals were largely died out by 39000 years ago, 10000 years earlier than thought.
The speed of their disappearance and the absence of any detected natural disaster (a major volcanic eruption in Europe occurred too late to have an effect) indicates that the arrival of modern man might be largely to blame. The Neanderthals were probably unable to compete with modern humans who, although not as strong, possessed superior social networks and connections and numbers, the Neanderthals remaining in small isolated groups.
The Neanderthals may have died out but some interbreeding took place, Neanderthal DNA lives on in European and Asian genes.