.. able as to whether these features were practiced by preceding Neanderthals or whether these innovations were brought into Europe by Moderns who would replace them. (Thorne and Wolpoff:1992) The question of the transition from the middle to upper Palaeolithic surrounds whether or not the transition was gradual or sudden.
Evidence of burials within Neanderthal populations indicates that such cultural indicators were derived from those populations by other successive modern populations. The remains discovered by Duarte et al at Abrigo do Lagar Velho in Portugal present a mosaic of European early modern human and Neanderthal features according to Erik Trinkaus (1999). It is this blending of features that implies interbreeding between the two. It could be that the replacement model is somewhat supported in that it was the hybrid which gradually replaced pure Neanderthals, or that the regional model is somewhat supported in that the Neanderthals, or rather their descendants, indeed became fully modern.
The translation of this evidence depends on who is looking at it, and what view they support in the first place. This brings up the issue of bias in the field and indicates that the study by its nature cannot be exact and is certainly open to interpretation. It is apparent that there can be no consensus as yet to the fate of the Neanderthals. Arguments on both sides can be quite compelling, but perhaps the most compelling is that of the third hypothesis, the middle ground, being that there needs to be further investigation into the possibility of hybridization between Neanderthal and Modern populations. Erik Trinkaus, staking his reputation on the claim, has lent his support to this hypothesis: If you have two populations of hunter-gatherers that are totally different species, that are doing things in very different ways, have different capabilities–they’re not going to blend together, Trinkaus says. They’re going to remain separate.
So the implication from Portugal is that when these people met, they viewed each other as people. One group may have looked a little funny to the other one–but beyond that they saw each other as human beings. And treated each other as such. (Kunzig 1999) Evidence which could be used to corroborate such a theory include further DNA research, including both mitochondrial and nuclear extractions if possible.
Obviously one sample from a single specimen is not enough to base a clear argument on. Perhaps with more research, the archaeological record will be corroborated by the biological record, and show that indeed the transition from mid to upper Palaeolithic was gradual and due to the interbreeding of two types of humans, which replaced the local population from which much of the technology was derived. Further excavations which produce similar remains as that of Abrigo do Lagar Velho may also show increasing evidence of hybridization. Only by seeking to expand the fossil record, and exacting reliable dates will we be able to tell the whole story of human evolution, for which the Neanderthal question is but a small part. By answering this question though, we can piece together the real story of our origins and begin to understand the whole picture of hominid evolution.
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