According to the ANO Laboratory of Saint Petersburg Russia major volcanic activity 40,000 years ago may have resulted in harsh winters that devastated Neanderthal habitats thereby significantly contributing to his extinction.

Modern humans survived because they lived in Africa and on the tip of southwestern Asia at that time, safely outside the range of volcanic ash clouds, Golovanova’s group proposes in the October Current Anthropology. If that scenario pans out, then geographic good luck allowed Homo sapiens to move into Neandertals’ former haunts after a couple thousand years without having to compete with them for food and other resources, as many researchers have assumed.

Tags: Humans, Jubinsky, Neandertal, Neanderthal, Volcanoes

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I don't see how this explains why cro-magnon (aka. homo sapiens) did not become extinct, even though most seem to agree that they existed at the same time and in the same areas.

-- Gary
I was wondering the same thing. Here is the answer that is provided:

Modern humans survived because they lived in Africa and on the tip of southwestern Asia at that time, safely outside the range of volcanic ash clouds, Golovanova’s group proposes in the October Current Anthropology. If that scenario pans out, then geographic good luck allowed Homo sapiens to move into Neandertals’ former haunts after a couple thousand years without having to compete with them for food and other resources, as many researchers have assumed.

I suppose the researchers are holding that other homo sapiens (the ones who were in harm's way) had the same problems with the volcanoes as Neanderthal but that there were enough homo sapiens who were not in harm's way to move in and replace Neanderthal after he had been substantially wiped out.
If the volcano theory were plausible, there should simultaneously have been at major extinction of lots of other species on which the Neanderthal depended - such as mammoth.
This quoted from Wikipedia: "Until recently, it was generally assumed that the last woolly mammoths vanished from Europe and southern Siberia about 10,000 BC, but new findings show that some were still present there about 8,000 BC."
The factor best coinciding with the extinction of the mammoth and several other large ice age mammals is the recession of the (or that) ice age and the fauna changes caused by the new climatic conditions.
Probably there are lots of other reasons for the extinction of our Neanderthal brothers - examples could be common, contagious diseases brought by the Homo Sapiens newcomers from Africa - comparable to the common, "harmless" diseases, that killed millions of the original populations of the Americas after the arrival of Europeans.
A large decrease in Neanderthal population, whatever the reason, would likely at some point have been enhanced by lack of genetic variation in the presumably then isolated populations.

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