More on Neanderthals

December 7, 2009 | By | Reply More

Earlier this year, I posted on a comprehensive article regarding Neanderthals published by National Geographic. In the August, 2009 edition of Scientific American, you can find considerably more information on our Neanderthal cousins.

One of the most interesting things about Neanderthals is that they survived for nearly 15,000 years after modern humans moved into Europe (modern humans entered Europe about 40,000 years ago). Some scientists suggest that modern humans did not necessarily kill the Neanderthals directly, but that “the Neanderthals ended up competing with the incoming moderns for food and gradually lost ground.” The reason they might’ve lost ground is that modern humans were more flexible about what they could eat–they were able to survive off of smaller animals and plant foods. Anthropological evidence suggests that Neanderthals focused mainly on large game, which often became scarce, and which prevented a division of labor among Neanderthal men, women and children. Neanderthals also needed a lot more calories than modern humans. Paleoanthropologist Leslie Aiello described them as follows: “Neanderthals were the SUVs of the hominid world.”

Evidence also suggests that Neanderthals were intellectually active. Neanderthals probably had language (based upon the fact that they decorated their bodies with jewelry and pigment, which were often used as a proxy for language). Further, recent analysis of Neanderthal DNA shows that they carried “the same version of the speech enabling gene FOXP2 that modern humans carry.”  The article indicates that a full analysis of Neanderthal DNA is likely out this year, and that it is expected to shed far more light on what it meant to be a Neanderthal

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Category: Human animals

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Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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