Saturday, January 09, 2010

Neanderthals were people, too

One piece of evidence that is used to ascribe people-ness to homo sapiens is that fact that early in our emergence, we produced art. Art is evidence of symbolic thought -- and lack of it, specifically in Neanderthals has always been used to suggest they were mentally inferior to us. Well, guess again.

Evidence has been found in last few years, and now in Spain, that gives hard evidence of Neanderthals possessing the ability to produce art -- having the same capabilities as early humans, for symbolism, imagination and creativity. Neanderthals may not have died out because they were stupid after all.

Since Neanderthals and Homo sapiens existed at the same time, and most likely interacted as our ancestors emerged from Africa to Europe, there is interesting possibilities for the types of interactions we may have had. Not just exchanges in rituals and art, but there have been suggestions that inter-species breeding may have occurred.

It continues to surprise that we gravitate towards the simplistic view of evolution. It's not black and white. It's not a sharp change, from one species to another. It's gradual, over long periods of time. We just love our labels to distinctly identify one species over another -- but over time, the change from one to another is gradual. And there is no reason why one branch couldn't become intertwined into another.

Cross-breeding did occur. I see Neanderthals everyday -- and I don't use that to describe the slower ones.

in reference to: Heavy Brows, High Art?: Newly Unearthed Painted Shells Show Neandertals Were Homo sapiens 's Mental Equals: Scientific American (view on Google Sidewiki)

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