February 29, 2008

Did Cannibalism contribute to Neanderthal extinction?

See the earlier post on Cannibalistic Neanderthals.

Medical Hypotheses doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2007.12.014

A potential role for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies in Neanderthal extinction

Simon Underdown

The Neanderthals were a Eurasian human species of the genus Homo that disappeared approximately 30,000 years ago. The cause or causes of their extinction continues to intrigue specialists and non-specialists alike. Here a contributory role for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) is suggested. TSEs could have infected Neanderthal groups as a result of general cannibalistic activity and brain tissue consumption in particular. Further infection could then have taken place through continued cannibalistic activity or via shared used of infected stone tools. A modern human hunter-gatherer proxy has been developed and applied as a hypothetical model to the Neanderthals. This hypothesis suggests that the impact of TSEs on the Neanderthals could have been dramatic and have played a large part in contributing to the processes of Neanderthal extinction.

Link

7 comments:

dienekesp said...

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Crimson Guard said...

The idea that they ate themselves to death is a tad to comical. I think it'll make more sense if its; because they were cannibals, is why the Proto-Europoids wouldve helped contributed to annihilating them on a steady basis.

J. said...

But contemporary cannibal populations (Papua, etc.) infected with the same thingie did survive.

pconroy said...

Meso-Americans practiced ritual cannibalism and the Anastasi people practiced cannibalism out of necessity - but neither of these groups exterminated themselves doing so... I doubt the Neanderthals were different

Richard said...

This is not just daft speculation. There has been a quite recent
precedent in the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea, who suffered from a prion disease called kuru (the photograph in the Discovery article actually shows these people) caused by cannibalism.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1235525.stm

the telling quote in this story is:
"By the time kuru, which means "trembling" or "shivering", was discovered by outsiders, it was killing half of all women and
children in the Fore tribe".

That's a fair old attrition rate.

regards

Richard

Dragon Horse said...

"The idea that they ate themselves to death is a tad to comical. I think it'll make more sense if its; because they were cannibals, is why the Proto-Europoids wouldve helped contributed to annihilating them on a steady basis."

How about the the newly arrived humans ate them?

Crimson Guard said...

This article compares them to a cannibalistic tribe in South America:

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/02/27/neanderthal-cannibalism.html