Modern Humans No Brainier Than Neanderthals
Study: Archaeology doesn't support idea of Neanderthals as dimwitted
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2014 10:40 AM CDT
This Jan. 8, 2003 file photo shows a reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton, right, and a modern human version of a skeleton, left, on display at the Museum of Natural History.   (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

(Newser) – It's a well-ingrained stereotype: That Neanderthals grunted their way through life as less than brilliant "club-wielding brutes." A new study published in Plos One says that just isn't so. Scientists have long theorized that early modern humans had a cognitive advantage (which translated, they posited, into a better diet, better weapons, and better communication) that allowed them to survive when Neanderthals did not some 40,000 years ago. Wil Roebroeks at the Netherlands' Leiden University was one of two researchers who dug through archaeological records looking for research to support the idea of a dimwitted demise, but instead found "there is no archaeology to back them up." Adds Dr. Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, "The evidence for cognitive inferiority is simply not there."

In terms of being able to communicate and work as a team, they point to a sinkhole in France where Neanderthals are believed to have steered hundreds of bison to their deaths; food remains at cooking sites suggest a diverse diet that included pistachios and wild olives, a press release notes. Villa says part of the issue is that Neanderthals have long been compared to humans who came after them (in the Upper Paleolithic period) rather than those who were their Middle Paleolithic contemporaries. Quips Villa, "It would be like comparing the performance of Model T Fords to the performance of a modern-day Ferrari and conclude that Henry Ford was cognitively inferior to Enzo Ferrari." So why did they die out? Roebroeks and Villa think the answer is a complex one, but note that interbreeding with modern humans may have produced infertile male offspring, the Guardian reports. (And there's more evidence that Neanderthals weren't the brutes their name suggests.)

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Kel Knight
May 5, 2014 12:46 AM CDT
How does an article like this even exist in 2014? Every support used to prop Out of Africa up has been thoroughly discredited. Mutation rates predicated on so called molecular clocks? Debunked on the basis of author assumption and the fact that when others used authors data to duplicate their conclusions, they often did not. Sub Saharan Africans as the most genetically diverse, hence "the oldest" population? Genetic diversity could just as easily, if not more so, indicate the mixing of the well established disparate populations that existed simultaneously in Africa. Homo sapiens sapiens solely evolved in Africa then dispersed to the rest of the globe where they completely replaced or drove into extinction virtually every other population on the planet? Where in Africa has there been found the complete, or near complete, fossil remains that clearly indicate the presence of what idiots in our field have for too long referred to as "anatomically modern humans?" Furthermore, where is there a shred of evidence that a group or groups of "anatomically modern humans" left Africa to take over the world? There is no fossil evidence of this alleged dispersal and the genetic evidence used to support it is weak at best. Why weren't other, potentially more plausible conclusions drawn? When a sociopolitical agenda, housed in in a brain that mistakes activism for science, analyzes data...that data gets filtered through so many biases as to render it null and void. Neanderthals are early Eurasians. They are not physically or genetically distinct enough to be a separate species; there is well demonstrated evidence of continuity (and none for replacement) in Eurasia. The features that are supposed to differentiate Neanderthals from so called "amh" continue to exist in varying degrees in the current European population. Neanderthals did not "go extinct" as too many ignorant media headlines blare. They are simply a primitive form of modern day Eurasians. But because this has served as evidence that the entire global populations isn't exactly the same and that it is sub Saharan Africans who are the "different from us" population, no one is allowed to acknowledge reality, lest they be condemned as a racist. Hollow accusations do nothing to alter the truth.
May 4, 2014 11:16 AM CDT
Good so we killed them off, they did not go because of inability to adapt.
May 1, 2014 7:54 PM CDT
We have knowledge, a generation or two of passed down experience and exponential technological growth as an advantage. Evolutionary ~20k years isn't significant. We lost knowledge cavemen had and majority of modern humans don't have any survival skills.