Who’re You Calling a Neanderthal?
2013-05-08 0:00

By David Frayer | New York Times



Most Westerners think of Neanderthals as stumbling, bumbling, mumbling fools who aimlessly wandered the landscape eking out a miserable, forlorn existence. Yet Neanderthals lived longer in Europe than modern humans have, by several hundred thousand years, and survived good and bad times.

The “Neanderthals are inferior” attitude traces back to their earliest descriptions in the mid-1800s when the first Neanderthal was labeled as “freak” or an “idiot” or “incapable of moral and religious conception.” For many, the discoveries after 1865 confirmed these labels. Even the majority of human paleontologists supported this view.

But in the last 10 years there has been a major reassessment of the Neanderthals, and it turns out they share a lot of the behavior and capabilities of people in Europe today. This revolution in the way academics think about Neanderthals arises from discoveries in archaeology, re-evaluations of their anatomy and revelations about their genetic makeup.


The most amazing is the extraction of nuclear DNA sequences from Neanderthal remains, which show that Europeans derive up to 4 percent of their genes uniquely from Neanderthals. Some 80 gene sequences come directly from Neanderthals and include regulators of smell, vision, cell division, sperm integrity and smooth muscle contraction.

One gene we share with Neanderthals is FOXP2, part of the gene complex associated with language production. We know variants of this gene in modern people cause language dysfunction and it was long assumed Neanderthals had a nonmodern form. This was partly based on the general assumption that Neanderthals were not like us — and some argued that Neanderthals lacked the ability to produce the essential vowels of language — “a,” “e” and “u.”

New anatomical work refutes this, and the evidence from FOXP2 shows that Neanderthals had the exact genetic sequence found in fully vocal moderns.

Another key to the language question is brain lateralization. Language is mostly on the left side, in the ear region. Someone who has suffered a stroke in this region often has impaired language ability, as well as paralysis on the right side of the body, because the left side of the brain controls that, too.

This lateralization is a hallmark of modern humans and is reflected in handedness. All humans have a right-hand-to-left-hand ratio of 9 to 1. Our nearest ape relatives lack this hand laterality, along with the modern FOXP2 sequence, but Neanderthals had both. Their 9-to-1 ratio was identical to all modern humans. The implication for all this is that Neanderthals could speak.

What did they talk about? Perhaps what colorant to use, since manganese dioxide blocks, and red and yellow ocher, have been found at some of the sites where they lived. In the Netherlands, early Neanderthals were liquefying these colorants, as seen in red ocher drops found at one site. Were these colorants dripping out of skin bags? No one knows, but it is unlikely they were dissolving red ocher in their hands.

Or were they talking about what feathers to decorate themselves with? At a site in Italy, feathers were removed from the wings of the bearded vulture, Eurasian black vulture, golden eagle, red-footed falcon, common wood pigeon and Alpine chough, based on cut marks found at the wingtips of bird bones.

Possibly they spoke about the strategies involved in catching them. Or maybe Neanderthals spoke about the power of eagle talons. Pendants made from these claws have been found at numerous sites in France and Spain spanning nearly 60,000 years. Some of the latest Neanderthal sites turned up modified and sometimes pierced tooth and bone pendants and other art objects.

Or maybe Neanderthals spoke about their dead. Newborns, children, adolescents and adults have been found in prepared graves, in a few cases with grave goods and other items to prepare them for whatever was to come.

[...]

Read the full article at: nytimes.com

Top Image via The Cultural Niche




Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Troy McLachlan & Theodore Holden - Hour 1 - Cosmos in Collision: Antique Solar System, Neanderthals & Modern Man

Lloyd Pye - Hominoids

Ross Hamilton, Jim Vieira & Hugh Newman - Hour 1 - Giants, Mound Builders & Etheric Energy

Freddy Silva - Ancient Sacred Sites, Invisible Temples, Giants & Our Ancestors

Nora Gedgaudas - Hour 1 - The Paleo Diet, Primal Body & Primal Mind





Related Articles
New Evidence of Symbolic Thought in Neanderthals
Them And Us: How Neanderthal Predation Caused Modern Humanns
First Love Child of Human, Neanderthal Found
Last-stand Neanderthals queried
Could ’Almas’ be surviving Neanderthals ?
Was human technology superior to neanderthals’?
Neanderthals used feathers as ’personal ornaments’
Neanderthals Found Certain Plants Important, Had Medicine
The Science and Art of Neandertal Teeth


Latest News from our Front Page

Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
2016-04-28 20:10
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North. The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night. A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked. The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
2016-04-28 20:48
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough. Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield. Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
2016-04-27 2:23
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July. The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
2016-04-27 2:09
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown. The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent. He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
2016-04-25 23:10
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are. ... London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race. Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event. Marathon ...
More News »