As part of the new 102nd Four Stone Hearth, a piece by Julien Riel-Salvatore explaining his new paper about how Neanderthals were much more advanced than previously thought has caught fire. And why not? Neanderthals have had a long history of being derided as the dumb jocks of the humanoid evolutionary line. They had the brawn, but they lacked the brains.
While they certainly didn’t have the cognitive capacity that we do, they weren’t as dumb as all that.
I showed that, among, other things, around 42,000 calendar years ago (ca. 36.5 radiocarbon years BP), a new culture (better, behavioral adaptation) – the Uluzzian – emerged in southern Italy and is widely believed to have been made by Neanderthals. The thing is, the Uluzzian is associated with bone tools, stone armatures likely used as part of composite projectile weapons, shell ornaments, coloring material (ochre, limonite), and possible evidence of small game exploitation. These features are all generally associated with modern human groups, not so much with Neanderthals.
His post is a bit long, but it’s worth it if you’re into Neanderthals as much as I am.
Make sure to check out the 102’nd Four Stone Hearth Here
Kyle Munkittrick thinks so. John Hawks isn’t so sure:
Of course today this is all just idle talk. Someone who’s talking about other extinct species, I don’t take very seriously. We’re talking about an ancient population of humans here. Not like quaggas; more like Tasmanians — a group of people whose culture hasn’t survived, and yet still has many living descendants. This shouldn’t be a conversation about cloning, it should be about the logical consequence: adoption. Who will step up to adopt a Neandertal child, and why aren’t they helping living children instead?
This is about as cool as it gets:
In the 7 May 2010 issue of Science, Green et al.
report a draft sequence of the Neandertal genome composed of over 3
billion nucleotides from three individuals, and compare it with the
genomes of five modern humans. A companion paper by Burbano et al. describes a method for sequencing target regions of Neandertal DNA. A News Focus , podcast segment, and special online presentation
featuring video commentary, text, and a timeline of Neandertal-related
discoveries provide additional context for their findings.
I guess I have one more reason to visit eastern Europe. A new museum in Croatia is dedicated to everyone’s favorite cousin, the Neandertal
“Today we look at the Neanderthals as humans. They had emotions, helped the weak and the sick, we have found indications of burying rituals and established that they had the speech gene just like ours,” Radovcic said.
Findings throughout Europe show that the Neanderthals painted pictures, probably engaged in some sort of tribal dancing or music, and even cleaned their teeth.
“Even if they were not our direct ancestors, they were very close relatives to our ancestors, which again makes them our ancestors,”
The idea of a Neadertal brushing its teeth is particularly appealing to me … not sure why.
Did Neandertal’s wear make up? Did they know all the words to Dancing Queen? Did they have more style than Homo Sapiens?
These are just some of the questions that come up in response to the Daily Mail’s “Neandertal Make up” piece. Here’s a quote from Professor Chris Stringer,
‘When football fans behave badly, or politicians advocate reactionary views, they are invariably called “Neanderthal”, and I can’t see the tabloids changing their headlines any time soon.’
John Hawks wonders if that might inspire football fans to start wearing make up. I counter that we should simply start calling the guys at Queer Eye for the Straight Guy a bunch of Neandertals.
Ever wondered what Neandertal music sounded like?
A musical experience with a difference is being previewed at the National Museum Wales in Cardiff – an attempt to recreate the sound of the Neanderthals.
Jazz composer Simon Thorne was given the task of creating the “soundscape” to provide a musical backdrop to some of the ancient exhibits on display.
The musician says the work is “probably the most unusual” he has undertaken.
John Hawks takes it down:
Now, let’s consider the question: Can we predict anything about Neandertal evolution and relationships based on this small, possibly unrepresentative sample of mtDNA?
The answer is that it doesn’t matter very much whether we have 5 sequences or 500. If 15 out of 15 specimens from different sites across Europe preserve a single mtDNA haplogroup, we can’t say it was universal, but we can say it was common. If 40 out of 50, or 400 out of 500 specimens had the same haplogroup, that would increase the precision, but not change the basic fact: Neandertals had at least one common haplogroup that is now so rare it has never been found in a sample of 100,000 or more people. We deserve some explanation.
The possible explanations are:
- Random genetic drift
- Accelerated genetic drift due to demographic turnover
- Population extinction and replacement
- Natural selection