ECPE Practice Reading Test #2
There is still no consensus about how the Neanderthals were driven to extinction, leaving our Homo sapien ancestors without any competition. The disappearance of the native European Neanderthals is odd partly because their shorter, stockier bodies must have made them better able to withstand the colder temperatures that prevailed when their cousins from Africa entered Europe. With a smaller surface area the Neanderthal body would have been able to retain more heat. The once common assumption that the key was the inferior vocal abilities of the Neanderthal has since been disproved by research on the Neanderthal hyoid bone, located in the throat. The larger skull capacity and brain is another repect in which they do not seem to have been inferior.
It was once thought that proof of a superior intellect was to be found in the narrower Homo sapien stone tools known as 'blades', which were assumed to be more efficient than the broader 'flakes' used by the Neanderthals. In a number of important respects, including durability, this idea has proved to be unfounded. However, the blades would have been more effective as tips for throwing spears whereas the stone flakes would have been limited to the kind of thrusting spears the Neanderthals are believed to have used. This could have combined with the greater agility of the Homo sapiens to give them a distinct advantage in hunting in open terrain. Crucial in this respect were the larger canals in the Homo sapien inner ear, providing a more acute sense of balance, in addition to the longer limbs and lighter build. The Neanderthal technique of hiding and lying in wait for passing animals ceased to be viable when the dense forests of Europe began to recede. After a period of co-existence with their cousins, the Neanderthals were slowly eradicated.
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