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Nature. 2014 Aug 21;512(7514):306-9. doi: 10.1038/nature13621.

The timing and spatiotemporal patterning of Neanderthal disappearance.

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Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology &the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK.
1] Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology &the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK [2] Research School for Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra 0200, Australia.
School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP), Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK.
School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, College Park, 4102 Jiménez Hall, University of Maryland, Maryland 20742-4821, USA.
Research Team on Prehistory (IT-622-13), IKERBASQUE, University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), Tomás y Valiente Street, 01006 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
Departimento Prehistoria y Arqueología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Campus Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.
Fundación Instituto de Investigación de Prehistoria y Evolución Humana, Plaza del Coso 1, 14900 Lucena, Córdoba, Spain.
URS, 525 Vine Street, Suite 1800, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202, USA.
8 rue des Sapins, 67100 Strasbourg, France.
Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche, della Terra e dell'Ambiente, U.R. Preistoria e Antropologia, Università degli Studi di Siena, Via Laterina 8, 53100 Siena, Italy.
Département de Préhistoire, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 75013 París, France.
1] Abt. Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie, Universität Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany [2] Tübingen Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany.
Service public de Wallonie, DGO4, Service de l'Archéologie, rue des Martyrs, 22, B-6700 Arlon, Belgium.
Laboratoire d'Éco-antropologie et Ethnobiologie, Musée de l'Homme, 17 place du Trocadéro, 75116 Paris, France.
Departamento de Prehistoria, Arqueología, Antropología e Historia Antigua, Universidad de La Laguna, Campus de Guajara, 38071 Tenerife, Spain.
1] Monrepos Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution, Schloss Monrepos, D-56567 Neuwied, Germany [2] The Cantabria International Institute for Prehistoric Research (IIIPC), University of Cantabria, Avda. Los Castros, s/n. 39005 Santander, Spain.
Laboratorio di Preistoria 'B. Bagolini', Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia, Università degli Studi di Trento, via Tommaso Gar, 14 I-38122 Trento, Italy.
Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, rue Vautier 29, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium.
Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, 103 Machmer Hall, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA.
School of Anthropology, Emil W. Haury Building, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721-0030, USA.
Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología, UNED. Paseo Senda del Rey 7, 20840, Madrid, Spain.
1] Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology &the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK [2] The Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.
rea de Prehistòria, Universitat de Girona, pl. Ferrater Mora 1, 17071 Girona, Spain.
CNRS, UMR 5608, TRACES, Toulouse Jean Jaurès University, Maison de la Recherche, 5 Allées Antonio Machado, 31058 Toulouse, Cedex 9, France.
Department of Anthropology, Trent University, Life and Health Sciences Building Block C, 2140 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7B8, Canada.
Dipartimento di Antichità, Filosofia e Storia, Università di Genova, Via Balbi 2, Genova I-16126, Italy.
Ephoreia of Paleoanthropology of Southern Greece, Ardittou 34B, Athens 11636, Greece.
Università di Ferrara, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Sezione di Scienze Preistoriche e Antropologiche, Corso Ercole I d'Este 32, I-44100 Ferrara, Italy.
Service public de Wallonie, DGO4, Direction de l'Archéologie, rue des Brigades d'Irlande, 1, B-5100 Jambes, Belgium.
Departamento de Historia, Universidad de Oviedo, c/Teniente Alfonso Martínez, s/n, 33011 Oviedo, Spain.
Département d'Anthropologie, Université de Montréal, C. P. 6128, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, Quebec H3T 1N8, Canada.
Service of Scientific Heritage, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, 1000 Brussels, Belgium.
Monrepos Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution, Schloss Monrepos, D-56567 Neuwied, Germany.
UCD Earth Institute and School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
1] Department of Prehistory and Europe, Franks House, The British Museum, London N1 5QJ, UK [2] The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK [3].


The timing of Neanderthal disappearance and the extent to which they overlapped with the earliest incoming anatomically modern humans (AMHs) in Eurasia are key questions in palaeoanthropology. Determining the spatiotemporal relationship between the two populations is crucial if we are to understand the processes, timing and reasons leading to the disappearance of Neanderthals and the likelihood of cultural and genetic exchange. Serious technical challenges, however, have hindered reliable dating of the period, as the radiocarbon method reaches its limit at ∼50,000 years ago. Here we apply improved accelerator mass spectrometry (14)C techniques to construct robust chronologies from 40 key Mousterian and Neanderthal archaeological sites, ranging from Russia to Spain. Bayesian age modelling was used to generate probability distribution functions to determine the latest appearance date. We show that the Mousterian ended by 41,030-39,260 calibrated years bp (at 95.4% probability) across Europe. We also demonstrate that succeeding 'transitional' archaeological industries, one of which has been linked with Neanderthals (Châtelperronian), end at a similar time. Our data indicate that the disappearance of Neanderthals occurred at different times in different regions. Comparing the data with results obtained from the earliest dated AMH sites in Europe, associated with the Uluzzian technocomplex, allows us to quantify the temporal overlap between the two human groups. The results reveal a significant overlap of 2,600-5,400 years (at 95.4% probability). This has important implications for models seeking to explain the cultural, technological and biological elements involved in the replacement of Neanderthals by AMHs. A mosaic of populations in Europe during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition suggests that there was ample time for the transmission of cultural and symbolic behaviours, as well as possible genetic exchanges, between the two groups.

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