Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors roamed the European landscapes before they suddenly disappeared. To find out exactly what happened to them we have to go back in time. Over 40,000 years ago, the Homo Heidelbergensis roamed Africa and is considered to be a common ancestor to both us and the Neanderthals. Their bigger brains allowed them to dominate and thrive in the ever-evolving climate. Eventually, they left Africa and wandered towards Asia and Europe, where some made it to Heidelberg in Germany, where their bones were first discovered. Hence, the name Heidelbergensis.
The First of Their Kind
As they settled and migrated within Europe, they quickly found themselves stuck in an ice age, as Europe was one of the coldest places in human existence at that time. The only way to survive was to adapt. A new species was born: the Homo Neanderthalensis. They had straight, thick hair and a very muscular stature, a perfect fit for rough climates. Furthermore, they wandered in clans and spread across Europe and Asia. In order to stay fed, they had to be excellent hunters. They developed advanced hunting methods and constructed spears and flint arrowheads that allowed them to take down big game. They learned to use the animals’ leather for clothing, which kept them warm in the unforgiving ice age.
A Second Species Emerges
After being the only species of the genus for many years, a new threat came into play: the Homo Sapiens – the modern humans. They were different in appearance: taller in height, flatter foreheads, and leaner bodies. However, the Neanderthals had a lot more muscle mass and were better adapted to the harsh climate. So, why did the Homo Sapiens survive the Neanderthals in the end? It’s all in the head! Brain size and intelligence, that is. Their hunting techniques and weapon handling were different from what we know from the Neanderthals. In fact, it was even discovered that both species probably lived together side by side for a while. But, why then did Neanderthals disappear so suddenly?
How it All Ended
As of now, there are different theories as to why Neanderthals went extinct. One of them is that they were affected by a powerful and deadly volcano eruption. A thick layer of ash covers Europe and Asia, the natural habitat of the Neanderthals. Unlike modern humans, who also lived in other places in the world, most Neanderthals die from the fallout. Only Neanderthals who lived on the borders of Europe survived. They continue to live on for another 15.000 years before they slowly disappeared forever.
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