Neandertals versus Anatomically Modern Humans. Actual state of research in the Middle Danube region
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If we consider the Balkans as a likely migration route of the Early Modern Humans into Europe, and if the Danube river is being suggested as one of the important axis of these population movements, the geographic role of the Middle Danubian region becomes visible. However, since the fossil anthropological finds (both Late Neandertal and Early Modern Human) are rare in this region, and their dating and/or determination are not always clear, we cannot avoid to use archaeological arguments if we wish to reconstruct the population changes over time and space. Much discussion has been devoted to the question whether the transitional tendencies towards the Upper Paleolithic technologies result from a spontaneous development by the European Neandertals, or from a contact and acculturation with the intervening Anatomically Modern Humans. A more precise chronological framework is required to resolve this question. This region provided an evidence for association of the Neandertals with the Middle Paleolithic of the interglacial and early glacial (OIS 5), but more delicate is the question of the last Neandertals and their relationship to the 'transitional' or Initial Upper Paleolithic cultural entities during the Interpleniglacial (OIS 3). The author reminds the excavation results and their interpretation. He emphasizes that the moment of modern human appearance in the Balkans and Central Europe becomes actually better documented thanks to the new discovery at Pestera cu Oase (34 – 36 ka B.P.) and the revisions at human fossil sites like Mladec (35-34 ka B.P.). The state of evidence at Mladec indicates coincidence between the early modern human appearance and the Aurignacian expansion during the Interpleniglacial. Whereas the early Aurignacian sites, dated as early as 38 ka B.P., are extremely rare and isolated, the middle Aurignacian, dated between 34-29 ka B.P., already creates a compact network of sites over large parts of the region. Thus, if we may identify Aurignacian with the Early Modern Humans, and if the increased site density reflects their demographic growth (and the art their higher social complexity), than this process may demonstrate the final victory of modern humans. Even if we seriously need more fossil finds and more dates, we may already conclude that the Neandertal extinction in eastern Central Europe was not the effect of climatic deterioration during the Lower Pleniglacial maximum (OIS 4), but, rather, results from the several millenia of coexistence with the newly emerging Early Modern Humans during the Interpleniglacial (OIS 3).
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