With respect to the impacts on humans of the CI eruption, there must have been different outcomes in areas proximal or distal to the volcanic source. Proximal sites such as Serino, for example, located only ∼50 km east of the Campi Flegrei would have felt the full impact, and it is, therefore, likely that populations here were devastated; the early Aurignacian at Serino is capped by a thick CI ash layer, with no evidence of subsequent site reoccupation. Most of our newly identified CI records, however, are from sites considerably more distal from Campania, where the effects are likely to have been less severe; here, we see no evidence of continental-scale, long-term impact on hominin species.
Our results indicate that Neanderthal extinction in Europe was not associated with the CI eruption. Furthermore, in view of the continuous records of human occupation over the MP to UP transition preserved at Klissoura, Kozarnika, Tabula Traiana, and Golema Pesht, we also question the posited scale of the impact of HE4 cooling on Neanderthal demise. AMHs also seem to have been widespread throughout much of Europe before the CI eruption; thus, Neanderthal and AMH population interactions must have occurred before 40 ka B.P. Given the spatially complex nature of the Neanderthal and AMH evidence listed here, there may have been considerable variability in the timing of such encounters across Eastern Europe and Italy. Our evidence indicates that, on a continental scale, modern humans were a greater competitive threat to indigenous populations than the largest known volcanic eruption in Europe, even if combined with the deleterious effects of climatic cooling. We propose that small population numbers and high mobility may have initially saved the Neanderthals but that they were ultimately outperformed in this capacity by AMHs.
|Craters apparent in this satellite image of the Campi Flegrei, near Naples|