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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Sep 11;115(37):9116-9121. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1808647115. Epub 2018 Aug 27.

Impact of climate change on the transition of Neanderthals to modern humans in Europe.

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Institute of Geologie and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, 50674 Cologne, Germany;
Emil Racoviţă Institute of Speleology, Romanian Academy, 010986 Bucharest, Romania.
School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620.
Emil Racoviţă Institute of Speleology, Romanian Academy, 400006 Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Institute of Geologie and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, 50674 Cologne, Germany.
Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, Environmental Laboratories, Department of Nuclear Applications, International Atomic Energy Agency, 1400 Vienna, Austria.
Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST, United Kingdom.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.


Two speleothem stable isotope records from East-Central Europe demonstrate that Greenland Stadial 12 (GS12) and GS10-at 44.3-43.3 and 40.8-40.2 ka-were prominent intervals of cold and arid conditions. GS12, GS11, and GS10 are coeval with a regional pattern of culturally (near-)sterile layers within Europe's diachronous archeologic transition from Neanderthals to modern human Aurignacian. Sterile layers coeval with GS12 precede the Aurignacian throughout the middle and upper Danube region. In some records from the northern Iberian Peninsula, such layers are coeval with GS11 and separate the Châtelperronian from the Aurignacian. Sterile layers preceding the Aurignacian in the remaining Châtelperronian domain are coeval with GS10 and the previously reported 40.0- to 40.8-ka cal BP [calendar years before present (1950)] time range of Neanderthals' disappearance from most of Europe. This suggests that ecologic stress during stadial expansion of steppe landscape caused a diachronous pattern of depopulation of Neanderthals, which facilitated repopulation by modern humans who appear to have been better adapted to this environment. Consecutive depopulation-repopulation cycles during severe stadials of the middle pleniglacial may principally explain the repeated replacement of Europe's population and its genetic composition.


Central Europe; Middle—Upper Paleolithic transition; millennial-scale climate cycles; speleothems; stable isotopes

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