In “Neanderthals: Bad luck and its part in their downfall” (New Scientist, 07 April 2011), Mark Buchanantells us,
The popular theory has it that humans soon displaced Neanderthals thanks to their superior skills and adaptations. But mathematicians Armando Neves at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Maurizio Serva at the University of Aquila, Italy, now say that the extinction of Neanderthals may have been down to a genetic lottery.
The theory is that intermarriage with modern humans did the ‘thals in. We also learn,
A strong point of the analysis, says anthropologist Luke Premo of the University of Washington in Pullman, is that it makes few assumptions about unknown factors, including the relative sizes of the African and Neanderthal populations at the time.
Many extinction theories make a number of assumptions about the beliefs and lifestyles of early humans, including assumptions that have been shown experimentally to be wrong.