The research, led by Liubov Vitaliena Golovanova and Vladimir Borisovich Doronichev of the ANO Laboratory of Prehistory in St. Petersburg, Russia, is reported in the October issue of Current Anthropology.
“[W]e offer the hypothesis that the Neanderthal demise occurred abruptly (on a geological time-scale) … after the most powerful volcanic activity in western Eurasia during the period of Neanderthal evolutionary history,” the researchers write. “[T]his catastrophe not only drastically destroyed the ecological niches of Neanderthal populations but also caused their mass physical depopulation.”
Evidence for the catastrophe comes from Mezmaiskaya cave in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, a site rich in Neanderthal bones and artifacts. Recent excavations of the cave revealed two distinct layers of volcanic ash that coincide with large-scale volcanic events that occurred around 40,000 years ago, the researchers say.
Geological layers containing the ashes also hold evidence of an abrupt and potentially devastating climate change.
... Liubov Vitaliena Golovanova, et al. “Significance of Ecological Factors in the Middle to Upper Paleolithic Transition.” Current Anthropology 51:5 (October 2010).
via Volcanoes wiped Neanderthals out, research suggests.