Neanderthals doomed by lifestyle choices

ACCORDING to new research, Neanderthals are now thought to have died out at least 9,000 years earlier than previously thought. Carbon dating suggests the last Neanderthals roamed the planet some 37,000 years ago.

But how can this possibly be? Sightings of Neanderthal Man have persisted well into the current era. In Scotland, signs of Neanderthal behaviour are to be found at surviving cultural rituals known as "Old Firm" fixtures, when warring tribes are placed in a very confined space.

Scientists say changes in the planet's climate, as well as competition with modern-day humans, led to their demise. However, given the growing questioning of phenomena said to be related to climate change, theories of the death of Neanderthals may be wide of the mark. Alternative explanations are that they became extinct due to inferior intelligence. But the Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as large or larger than that of humans, indicating a similar brain size.

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Research has also established that Neanderthals were prone to arthritis, while dental remains indicated susceptibility to stress. This may point to a more likely cause of decline – inability to cope with work-life balance issues and an over-reliance on risky lifestyles. The great hunting and gathering crash of 35,000BC had a lot to answer for.