Climate change? Competition for resources? Lack of intelligence? All of these ideas have been floated around as to the cause of the “extinction” of the Neanderthals somewhere around 30 kya but, frankly, none of them hold water in my opinion as I do not think the Neanderthals went extinct at all. As I’ve said before on this blog I think the Neanderthals were basically “assimilated” by modern humans. That is, they interbred with modern humans which resulted in Neanderthal-H. sapien hybrids. So, the Neanderthals never went “extinct” as WE ARE THE NEANDERTHALS!…..or at least what is left of them. And we know this from the 3-4% Neanderthal DNA that exists within our genes today.
Past research has shown that all sub-Saharan Africans have about 3-4% Neanderthal DNA in them and the reason for this low amount is NOT because interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals was low. Rather, the reason for this low amount of Neanderthal DNA in us is due to common diluting of that DNA over the eons of time. For example, you may have had a great, great, great, etc…grandfather who was Mongolian. But today you don’t look Mongolian at all and your DNA test may show only 1% Mongolian DNA in your genes while showing 75% or more German or Asian DNA. The reason for this is over time your ancestors interbred with other people so over time and due to such interbreeding the Mongolian DNA has basically been bred out of you. This is the same with your Neanderthal DNA and I, therefore, am pretty sure that the further each of us could go in our past, if possible, we’d find that our remote ancestors did indeed have much more than 3-4% Neanderthal DNA in their genes.
We know that modern human and Neanderthal genomes are 99.8% genetically identical and we know this from past research. We know that fewer than 100 proteins differ in both of our amino acid sequences. That’s a pretty sure sign that Neanderthals were assimilated by modern humans and never went extinct at all in my mind!
It is, I believe, our own species ethnocentrism (read EGO and ARROGANCE) that causes us to think that our Neanderthal grandparents were somehow “inferior” to us. In fact, this attitude is exactly what has driven the stereotype of Neanderthals being brutish “cavemen” living in cave and carrying big clubs. You know, the Flintstones’s routine!! But the more we discover about Neanderthals the more we see that, really, the Neanderthals were not really very different from us. Granted, the Neanderthals had different ways of doing things than modern humans but that doesn’t mean they were somehow “inferior” to modern humans! For example, Neanderthals used what is called a “thrusting spear” to kill animals for food. These spears were strong and sturdy. They were excellent weapons for getting “up close and personal” with prey which the Neanderthals seemed to like to do as their remains basically show signs we see in boxers or wrestlers such as broken and healed bones! So for getting up close and personal with your prey nothing works better than the Neanderthal-style thrusting spear. Modern humans used a lighter, slimmer spear that could be thrown at one’s prey at a safe distance insuring the hunter had time to run should the spear only wound the animal and the animal come charging. This lighter more streamlined spear was good for distance throwing while the Neanderthal spear was good for close thrusting. Modern humans preferred one while Neanderthals preferred the other. A difference in taste, perhaps, and nothing more!
I tend to be in the camp that believes Neanderthals were far, far from being the brutes they’ve been made out to be by popular modern culture. In fact, I and many others hold the view that these prehistoric humans buried their dead and even may have performed some kind of ritual at those burials. Neanderthals made different BUT EFFECTIVE tools and weapons. They fashioned and wore body ornaments such as eagle claws and other primitive jewelry. They used red ocher for various purposes and they may have been the first ancient human ancestors to boil their food prior to consuming it! Apparently, they also liked and made music too! They used fire and made pitch from tree bark. Their living spaces appear to have been organized even BEFORE the arrival of the moderns! What I’m saying is that the Neanderthals were NOT INFERIOR to modern humans at all. They simply had different ways of doing things and, like many other people, I’m sure many of those ways were long and well tested as they were appropriate for the ENVIRONMENT Neanderthals were living in.
Some more evidence comes from studies that show H. sapien features in Neanderthal fossil remains. We can clearly see modern human features in some of these fossils and, in return, we can also see Neanderthal features in some modern human remains. In fact, as I’ve said before on this blog, EVEN TODAY we can see NEANDERTHAL features in modern humans, some more than others!
Some refer to the Neanderthals as our “cousins” but, in fact, the EVIDENCE says they were not the “cousins” of people outside Africa. Rather, the Neanderthals were our GRANDFATHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS of people outside of Africa! Finally, culture, technology, civilization are really matters of perspective. We tend to judge such things against our own MODERN terms of reference! This does NOT mean a people are inferior to us! It does NOT mean we have superior ways to theirs! It simply means that they have other ways of doing things and seeing the world than we do!!
Soooo……where in the hell is my club???????? 🙂