The Differences Between Neanderthals and Modern Human Beings

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The Neanderthals seem to have largely disappeared around 25,000 years ago, but the precise explanation for their disappearance remains something of a mystery. A number of different theories have emerged, some mutually exclusive, some not, but all of them draw upon substantial archeological, anthropological, and biological evidence. Researchers have variously proposed that Neanderthals were the victims of genocide at the hands of modern humans, died out due to some kind of plague or epidemic, or went extinct because they could not cope with climatic shifts. While none of these can be conclusively proven or disproven, one can at least begin to assign certain degrees of likelihood to each hypothesis. Upon examining a variety of these theories regarding the extinction of the Neanderthals, it becomes clear that in all likelihood, the Neanderthals disappeared not due to any single cause, but rather from susceptibility to climate change coupled with conflict, disease, and interbreeding. To begin this study, it will be useful to start with a brief discussion of the major differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, because as will be seen, these differences may have a played a key role in their eventual extinction. Neanderthals were not the brutish, ape-like creatures they are often depicted as in popular media, but they did have some noticeable anatomical differences from modern humans. In general they were stockier with shorter, more powerful limbs, but these limbs

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