16th September, 2021 / 11:00 - 12:00
3rd December, 2015
Professor Chris Stringer FRS
Natural History Museum and Visiting Professor
Our evolutionary relationship with the Neanderthals has been a subject of dispute since the first fossil discoveries over 150 years ago, with views ranging from regarding them as our direct ancestors, to seeing them as a deep and distantly related lineage. Even 30 years ago, many scientists still considered Europe to be a locus for the evolution of Homo sapiens, with the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic archaeological transition paralleling a gradual transformation of the Neanderthals into modern humans. However since then, accumulating fossil, archaeological and genetic evidence has suggested that the European mid-late Pleistocene record instead documents the appearance and subsequent physical extinction of the Neanderthals. Nevertheless, the cultural and evolutionary succession from neanderthalensis to sapiens looks more complex than a straightforward and complete replacement of one by the other, with new archaeological and chronological data, and genomic evidence of the survival of Neanderthal DNA in extant humans. How much interaction there actually was between these populations in Eurasia, and its exact nature, remains to be established.
Stevenson Science Lecture