Until approximately 100,000 years ago, the Neanderthals dominated Europe, but by about 28,000 years ago, they had all but vanished from their last breeding ground in Gibraltar, losing out to Homo sapiens or ‘modern humans’ who arrived from Africa.
There are many suggestions as to why the Neanderthals didn’t survive. One popular theory is that they interbred gradually with the new arrivals, and eventually their genes faded out. But as yet, studies of DNA from Neanderthal fossils have not produced a definitive answer. Other researchers say that the DNA is so different from that of humans it excludes interbreeding, yet others disagree. Another theory is that they fell victim to climate change due to dramatic ‘cold spells’ around 25 to 40 thousand years ago – which coincides with the extinction of the Neanderthals, but some palaeontologists claim that their physical build and clothing show they were quite able to cope with the conditions.
It is also likely that they found themselves in a struggle for resources with Homo sapiens and lost out to a stronger intellect. The real cause of their disappearance however, is probably a combination of all of the above.