Although our image of Neanderthals is slowly changing many people still have the concept that they were the classical club-carrying Cavemen of old. But this image of Neanderthals is NOT accurate. There is strong archaeological evidence that Neanderthals had culture and were very much like us (modern humans–Homo sapiens) in terms of culture. Here are some examples:
We know that Neanderthals buried their dead just like modern humans did. Not only did they bury their dead but burial seemed to involve some type of ritual that included placing personal items with the body and covering it with flowers.
We know that Neanderthals cared for the old and infirm. We know this from Neanderthal skull finds that indicate the individual could not eat on his or her own due to having no or bad teeth or some other problem. The indication is that Neanderthals cared for their aged, sick, and disabled who could not hunt or provide for themselves.
We know that Neanderthals made jewelry. There’s a new report appearing in Science Daily suggesting that Neanderthals fashioned jewelry for personal adornment using eagle talons 130,000 years ago. That was BEFORE the arrival of the first Homo sapiens in Europe btw! Some researchers have argued that Neanderthals lacked symbolic ability (creativity) while others argue that they simply copied what they learned from H. sapiens. But the recent finds of eagle talon jewelry made by Neanderthals BEFORE the arrival of H. sapiens in Europe suggests otherwise.
Neanderthals also made the first specialized bone tools in Europe. Some researchers like myself believe that Neanderthals had cultural capacities similar to H. sapiens. The archaeological evidence suggests that Neanderthals developed their own technologies some of which have been previously associated with H. sapiens. In fact, modern humans may well have acquired technology that had already been developed by Neanderthals instead of the other way around! And why wouldn’t they? Modern humans coming out of Africa and migrating into Europe were entering a new environment such as they’d never seen. Why wouldn’t modern humans learn from the Neanderthals who already knew how to live and survive in the European environment? Why wouldn’t they acquire technology such as specialized bone tools from the Neanderthals to help them also survive the European environment that was very different from that of Africa?
We also know Neanderthals created cave art. Art is considered to be a major cognitive step in human evolution and up until recently art has only been associated with modern humans, H. sapiens. However, it appears that Neanderthals also created art! This fact alone calls for a MAJOR change in our perception of Neanderthals. Art indicates the ability to be creative and innovative. Art indicates complex cognitive and symbolic thought ability. It indicates abstract expression abilities which were thought to only be possessed by modern humans.
All of these finds in relation to Neanderthals indicate complex thought and culture. They also prove beyond any doubt that Neanderthals were NOT the club carrying cavemen we think they were! Neanderthals had culture similar to modern humans and it is only logical to think that Neanderthals learned from modern humans AND modern humans learned from Neanderthals. To think that Homo sapiens came trotting in from Africa with all their wisdom and culture making them the only sophisticated prehistoric culture in prehistoric Europe is RIDICULOUS and rather egotistical. The FACTS suggest differently!